Frank Lloyd (1867-1959), was one of America's most influential and imaginative
architects. During his career of almost 70 years, he created a striking variety of
architectural forms. His works ranged from buildings typical of the late 1800's to
ultramodern designs, such as his plan for a skyscraper 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) high.
Wright became internationally famous as early as 1910, but he never established a style
that dominated either American or European architecture. His influence was great but
generally indirect. It was spread as much by his speeches and writings as by his buildings
and designs. His Autobiography (1932, revised 1943 and 1977), one of the great literary
self-portraits of the 1900's, provides insights into his philosophy of architecture.
Early career. Wright was born in Richland Center, Wis. He studied engineering briefly at
the University of Wisconsin in the mid-1880's. In 1887, Wright moved to Chicago, where he
became a draftsman for Joseph Lyman Silsbee, a noted Midwestern architect. Wright designed
his first building while working for Silsbee.
Later in 1887, Wright joined the staff of the famous Chicago architects Dankmar Adler and
Louis Sullivan. He soon became their chief draftsman. Wright left Adler and Sullivan in
1893 to establish his own practice. Wright's work after 1893 reflected Sullivan's
influence, especially in attempts to harmonize a building's form with its function.
Wright's first distinctive buildings were homes designed in
his famous prairie style. In a typical prairie house, spaces inside the home expand into
the outdoors through porches and terraces. Because of their low, horizontal form, the
homes seem to grow out of the ground. This effect was emphasized by Wright's use of wood
and other materials as they appear in nature.
Wright designed many prairie houses in and around Chicago. The Willits House (1902) in
Highland Park, Ill., was shaped like a cross, with the rooms arranged so they seemed to
flow into one another. The Robie House (1909-1910) in Chicago looks like a series of
horizontal layers floating over the ground.
Wright's nonresidential designs of the early 1900's included
the Larkin Soap Company administration building (1904-1906) in Buffalo, N.Y., and Unity
Temple (1906-1908) in Oak Park, Ill. The core of the Larkin building was a skylighted
court. Unity Temple was one of the first public buildings in the United States whose
concrete construction formed part of its exterior. In most earlier concrete buildings, the
concrete had been covered with some other materials.
In 1910, a German publishing firm published a luxurious volume of illustrations of
Wright's drawings and plans. A second volume appeared in 1911. These books and later
publications of Wright's works strongly influenced the development of architecture in
Europe from about 1913 through the 1920's. European architects were especially impressed
by Wright's complex use of cubic shapes.
During the 1920's, Wright designed several houses in southern California that are noted
for the use of precast concrete blocks. He also planned the Imperial Hotel complex
(1915-1922) in Tokyo. The hotel was designed to withstand the earthquakes common in Japan
and was one of the few undamaged survivors of a severe earthquake that struck Tokyo in
Later career. In 1932, Wright founded the Taliesin Fellowship. This fellowship was made up
of architectural students who paid to live and work with Wright. The students worked
during the summer at Taliesin, Wright's home near Spring Green, Wis. During the winter,
they worked at Taliesin West, Wright's home in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Wright's projects of the 1930's included the Kaufmann "Fallingwater" house
(1936-1937) at Bear Run near Uniontown, Pa., and the Johnson Wax Company administration
building (1936-1939) in Racine, Wis. The Kaufmann house was dramatically perched over a
waterfall and became a symbol for the general public of far-out modern architecture. The
Johnson Wax building featured a smooth, curved exterior of brick and glass. The design
expressed the streamlined style in automobiles and other products of the late 1930's. A
laboratory tower designed by Wright was added later.
During his final years, Wright designed two of his most famous projects--the Guggenheim
Museum (completed in 1960) in New York City and the Marin County (Calif.) Civic Center.
The interior of the museum is dominated by a spiral ramp that runs from the floor almost
to the ceiling. The civic center is a series of long structures that connects three hills.
About nine buildings are planned for the center, which is expected to be completed by the