Frank Lloyd Wright : architect biography

famous architect : Frank Lloyd Wright [page1] [page2] [page3]

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Frank Lloyd Wright architect
Frank Lloyd Wright architect
Frank Lloyd Wright architect
Frank Lloyd Wright architect

Frank Lloyd Wright

A profound antiauthoritarian streak remained within him, however. It surfaced in the 1940s with his stout defence of conscientious objection, and it reappeared in the following decade with his fierce denunciation of McCartyism. In more subtle ways, this facet of Frank Lloyd Wright was present in his architecture as well.

It is instructive that Frank Lloyd Wright completed only one government building within the United states. That structure, the Marin County Civic Center (1959), just north of San Francisco, California slammed the door on the dome, which Frank Lloyd Wright regarded as both pretentious and autocratic. Significantly, those wings at the building devoted to the coercive aspects of government (ie, law enforcment) were eclipsed by those portions of the center that emphasized public service. This was individualism, but with a difference. It certainly had little in common with the individualism of the Randian right.

If not the stereotypical rugged individualist, then was Frank Lloyd Wright a modernist? He is often lumped with Walter Gropius, Le Corbusier, and Mies van der Rohe as one of the master builders of modern architecture. Frank Lloyd Wright 's work appeared alongside that of the above-mentioned architects in the International Style Exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1932. Both Frank Lloyd Wright and the modernists wanted, and put into place, an architecture expressive of the modern age. Both stressed the interdependence of form and function. Gropius acknowledged Frank Lloyd Wright 's influence on him, but Frank Lloyd Wright did not return the compliment. (Tom Wolfe provides an amusing sketch of Frank Lloyd Wright 's antipathy towards Gropius in From Bauhaus to Our House.)

However, several of Frank Lloyd Wright 's homes in the Los Angeles area, in particular the 1927 La Miniatura, suggest the influence of cubism, surely an integral component of architectural modernism in the 1920s. Still, we cannot dismiss Frank Lloyd Wright 's own protestations that organic architecture was not coterminous with modern architecture. In his mind, the work of the modernists was cold, sterile, and impersonal. Moreover, they turned their backs on nature, whereas Frank Lloyd Wright rushed to embrace it. As architects who were more at home in the modern city, they produced buildings with more of an urban cast than did Frank Lloyd Wright. The tatter's Usonian homes, in fact, were conceived as a self-conscious response to Le Corbusier's Citrohans. The circles and hexagons of which Frank Lloyd Wright became increasingly fond late in life might have been an attempt to escape from what Frank Lloyd Wright viewed as the iron cage of modern architecture. Finally, there was little sense of irony in Frank Lloyd Wright 's work. The same cannot be said of the modernists, and especially of their postmodernist successors. Frank Lloyd Wright admittedly paved the way for modernism in architecture, but Frank Lloyd Wright emphatically distanced himself from that movement.

related links

Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater
Frank Lloyd Wright - Life and work
Frank Lloyd Wright - Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Frank Lloyd Wright - Unity Temple
Frank Lloyd Wright - Unity Temple
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Allen-Lambe House
Oak Park Home & Studio and the Robie House

Frank Lloyd Wright can be criticized on a number of counts. For one, Frank Lloyd Wright relished playing the role of the misunderstood and neglected genius even as Frank Lloyd Wright was being showered with accolades by his profession. For another, Frank Lloyd Wright failed to realize that the decline of the city, which Frank Lloyd Wright cheerfully prophesied on a number of occasions, did not necessarily augur well for U.S. civilization. It certainly did not augur well for the more impoverished inhabitants of U.S. urban areas. There were also some tensions in Frank Lloyd Wright's thinking that were never adequately resolved. Frank Lloyd Wright always claimed to be speaking for the community as a whole, and yet Frank Lloyd Wright consistently, and sometimes brazenly, flaunted his independence of it. More importantly, Frank Lloyd Wright never squarely faced the question of whether it was possible to have an organic architecture in a society that was itself hardly organic. And finally, Frank Lloyd Wright never explained just how to arrive at his prized destination, Broadacre City. Frank Lloyd Wright 's blithe indifference to questions of power and politics suggested most Americans would be left behind at the station.

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Whether burying him or praising him, it must be conceded that Frank Lloyd Wright remains a paradoxical figure. A rebel in both his public and private life, Frank Lloyd Wright still designed many buildings that assumed a woman's place was in the home. Although Frank Lloyd Wright was an individualist by temperament, the learning environment at his Taliesin North and West was scarcely calculated to foster genuine individuality. For all his love of the land, Frank Lloyd Wright built only one house or a farmer during his long and productive career. Frank Lloyd Wright was a functionalist whose own furniture made him "black and blue." Frank Lloyd Wright preached a gospel of organic architecture, and yet his building designs for Baghdad in the late 1950s were remarkably inorganic. Frank Lloyd Wright was a critic of what is called "grandomania," although Frank Lloyd Wright sometimes displayed that trait himself. Frank Lloyd Wright was an arch foe of the skyscraper, but just before his death Frank Lloyd Wright began designing a mile-high structure for the state of Illinois. His Usonian homes were meant for people with relatively low incomes, but they sold most frequently to professionals with rather high incomes. Frank Lloyd Wright despised conspicuous consumption, but now that he is dead his homes have become status symbols. Last, Frank Lloyd Wright wedded an appreciation of new technology with a notion of community that bordered on the nostalgic. The description of Frank Lloyd Wright as "a nineteenth-century man using twentieth-century methods" was surely on the mark.

Frank Lloyd Frank Lloyd Wright has indubitably left his mark on this age. But it is not merely the mark of an architect. Speaking before an audience in London during the late 1930s, Frank Lloyd Wright stated that "[e]very great architect is - necessarily - a great poet". Whether or not this is true of every great architect remains a matter of debate. There are few, however, who will not see in that statement an apt description, perhaps the most apt description, of Wright himself.


1. B. Gill, Many Masks: A Life of Frank Lloyd Wright. G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York, 1987, passim.
2. Ibid., p. 28.
3. R. M. Crunden, Ministers of Reform: The Progressives' Achievement in American Civilization, Basic Books, Inc., New York,1982, pp. 134-138.
4. Frank Lloyd Wright, The Future of Architecture, New American Library, New York, 1953, p. 129.
5. Ibid., p. 138.
6. Ibid., p. 131.
7. Frank Lloyd Wright, The Living City, New American Library, New York, 1958, pp. 251-255.
8. Ref. 4, p. 29.
9. C. Lasch, Haven in a Heartless World: The Family Besieged, Basic Books, Inc., New York, 1977.
10. Ref. 4,p. 191
11. L Mumford, The Brown Decades: A study of the Arts in America, 1865-1895, Dover Publications, Inc., New York, 1971, p. 76.
12. R.C. Twonbly, Frank Lloyd Wright: His Life and His Architecture, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, 1979, p. 136.
13. Ibid., p.386.
14. Ibid., p.278.
15. M. White and L. White, The Intellectual Versus the City: From Thomas Jefferson to Frank Lloyd Wright, Harvard University Press and the MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1962, pp.4, 189-199.
16. Ref. 12, p. 324.
17. Ref. 4, p. 169.
18. Ref. 4, pp. 170,180.
19. H. Muchamp, Man About Town: Frank Lloyd Wright in New York City, the MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1983, passim.
20. V. Scully, Jr., Frank Lloyd Wright, George Braziller, Inc.; New York, 1985, p.31.
21. Ref. 4, p. 192
22. C. Jencks, Modern Movements in Architecture, Penguin Books, New York, 1986, pp. 135-136.
23. P. Blake, The Master Builders> Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright, W.W. Norton & Co., New York, 1976.
24. T. Wolfe, From Bauhaus to Our House, Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, New York, 1981, pp. 52-53.
25. Ref. 12, p. 414
26. Ref. 20, p. 11

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