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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

Other aspect of Frank Lloyd Wright 's prairie style work merit attention. The gently sloping roofs for which Frank Lloyd Wright is so famous intentionally captured the contours of the prairie. "The horizontal line", Wright insisted, "is the line of domesticity". This was a significant statement, given that Frank Lloyd Wright saw himself primarily as an architect of the home. But there was more to the prairie style than horizontal lines.

A critic put it well in saying that "Wright took the fashionable American house of the early nineties, with its high-pitched roof and spindly chimneys, its numerous dormer windows and its crazy turrets and towers, and brought this wild, shambling, pseudo-romantic creation, half Pegasus and half spavined selling plater, down to earth". A Frank Lloyd Wright biographer has noted that the architect spoke frequently of "marry(ing)" his homes "to the ground". This earth-hugging quality of Frank Lloyd Wright 's early domestic architecture reflected his desire to integrate home and nature, as did his use of earth tones within the home. The itch to integrate went further, however. For not only was the house never to be treated in isolation from the external environment, but also furnishings in the household were not to be viewed apart from one another or apart from the home. Thus Frank Lloyd Wright build furniture into the house as much as feasible. Moreover, Frank Lloyd Wright insisted on using native materials in their natural form for both the exterior and interior of a home. For one, such a tack would cut costs considerably. More importantly, though, homes built with such materials would have the stamp of authenticity upon them. Besides, Frank Lloyd Wright quueried his audiences, why paint wood when its beauty lies in its natural essence, not in its bastardization? This then was the meaning of organic architecture. Needles to say, it was applicable to much more than the U.S. prairie.

There are two splendid domestic monuments to Frank Lloyd Wright 's organic architecture. The first, which harks back to the Oak Park years, is the Robie House (1907). It has been described as "one of the seven most notable houses ever built in America". With its gracefulness, its link to the natural environment, and its sense of wholeness, the Robie House is the perfect embodiement of the prairie style. The other home was designed and build in the thick of the Depression and is at or near the top of the list. This is, of course, the Edgar Kaufmann residence (1936) at Bear Run, Pa., otherwise known as Fallingwater. It would be hard to improve on a Frank Lloyd Wright biographer's enraptured hymn to this masterpiece:

In its startling departure from traditional modes of expression, (Fallingwater) revealed an aspiration for freedom from imposed limitations, and in its successful partnership with the environment, it was a guidepost to humanity's proper relationship with nature. Fallingwater was also a resolution of dichotomies. At the same time strikingly substantial and dangerously ephemeral, it is securely anchored to rock and ledge, but seems to leap into space… Fallingwater is a study in opposites - motion and stability, change and permanence, power and ephemeralness - that make the humen condition a paradox of welcome adventure and anxious uncertainty.

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

Organic architecture implied much more than the reform of architecture. Indeed, as Frank Lloyd Wright fashioned it, it meant the reform of the entire society. Or, to put it another way, Wright hoped to reform society through architecture. Frank Lloyd Wright even went so far as to suggest that his homes would have a positive effect on the divorce rate. (He never specified how long it would take for his buildings to produce such a neneficial effect.) Certainly, Frank Lloyd Wright believed he could have a salutary impact on the workplace. His justly renowned Johnson Wax Building (1936) in Rancine, was calculated to improve the morale and productivity of the employees there. Apparently, it had precisely that effect. No less ambitious was Frank Lloyd Wright 's effort to construct a utopian city.

It has been started that Frank Lloyd Wright belonged to "the anticity party in American thought". Here, Frank Lloyd Wright had plenty of company, for hostility to the city has run like a red skein through our culture. Thomas Jefferson, whom Frank Lloyd Wright greatly admired in spite of the former's toleration of cornices, saw the city as a cancer sore upon the body politic. Twentieth-century U.S. architect were scarcely more nuanced in their view of cities. "The modern city", Frank Lloyd Wright often quipped, "is a place for banking and prostitution and very little else". Considering his rather dim view of bankers (an animus Frank Lloyd Wright shared with Henry Ford), it is a wonder that Frank Lloyd Wright brothered to draw a distinction here. In any event, Frank Lloyd Wright saw the typical U.S. (and presumeably European) city as overgrown, overcrowded, and exceendingly impersonal. For him, the modern city was, in a word, unnatural. But Frank Lloyd Wright was not any more pessimistic about cities than Karl Marx was about capitalism. Marx held that capitalism bore the seeds of its own destruction, but that human agency should accelerate the inevitable. Frank Lloyd Wright believed that the demise of the U.S. city was ineluctable and that Frank Lloyd Wright could provide a gentle assist.

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Frank Lloyd Wright reserved his choicest epithets for New York City. His ire was especially aroused there by the abundance of skyscrapers, "an exaggerated superconcetration that would have shocked Babylon". Not only did skyscrapers engender congestion and pollution, but by blocking out sun and light, they turned Manhattan into a perpetual "City of Night". Worst of all, the skyscraper "has no higher ideal of unity than commercial success".

Antipathetic to the city though he was, Frank Lloyd Wright at the same time took advantage of what urban, environments had to offer. Virtually all of his books, for instance, were published in New York City. If not enamored of urban civilization, Frank Lloyd Wright nonethless was fond of urban diversions. His most memorable urban structure, the Guggenheim Museum (1957), completed just two years before death, is situated in the middle of Manhattan. About as emphatic a rejection of post-and-beam architecture as is possible, the Guggenheim imaginatively blends structural solidity with visual fluidity. It has been said of it that the viewer is constantly kept "on the road". The city that Frank Lloyd Wright despised, ironically enough, now has as major landmark one of the architect's most daring creations.

Againist the specious unity of New York City (and lesser cities) Frank Lloyd Wright counterposed his own urban vision. Frank Lloyd Wright 's Broadacre City was hardly a city in the conventional sense of the term. Yet it cannot be gainsaid that his ideal city possessed characteristics that were urban as much as they were rural and or suburban. Perhaps it is misleading to use the standard terminology in describing Broadacre. It was more akin to a "new town" than to either city or suburb. The Jeffersonian aspect of Broadacre City was apparent at the outset. Just as Jefferson had hoped that every American would have a vine and fig tree, Frank Lloyd Wright dreamed that each would be able to grow their own food. In the Broadacre scheme, citizens of different social classes would rub elbows much more than was usual in the United States, and much more, for that matter, than they would have in Frank Lloyd Wright 's earlier blueprints for planned communities. Aesthetic considerations, not surprinsingly, were paramount. Industry was an integral part of Broadacre City, but it had to be light, and clean. Utility wiring was required to be underground. Most important of Frank Lloyd Wright, though, the new city would avoid the bane of centralization.

Frank Lloyd Wright 's individualistic vision has had its detractors, of course. Broadacre paid insufficient attention to mass transit in the eyes of many city planners. But this omision should have surprised no one. Frank Lloyd Wright strongly believed, after all, that the automobile was "the advance agent of decentralization. Perhaps with the Broadacre vision in mind, it has been asserted that Frank Lloyd Wright "had great faith in the democracy of the free enterprise system". Such a statement misses the distinctive nature of Frank Lloyd Wright 's political vision.

Frank Lloyd Wright may have been some extent the inspiration behind Howard Roark, the architect-protagonist of Ayn Rand's cult classic of the 1940s, The Fountainhead. But his individualism bore little resemblance to the novelist's laissez-faire utopia. To be sure, Frank Lloyd Wright and Rand both harbored an elitist disdain for the mobocracy. Yet the architect countenanced a far greater degree of government intervention in society than Rand. As a young man, Frank Lloyd Wright listened with rapt attention to the quasi-populist utterances of William Jennings Bryan. Still later, during the Progressive era, Frank Lloyd Wright befriended Robert LaFollette, the very avater of progressive reform and the foe of monopoly everywhere. (It should be noted that all natural monopolies in Broadacre City were to be publicity, that is to say, govermentally, owned.) During the 1930s, Frank Lloyd Wright backed Franklin Roosevelt's semicollectivist New Deal, although he broke with the President over the coming of the war. Frank Lloyd Wright 's sympathy for Roosevelt;s domestic aims had many sources. Perhaps the rough similarity of Roosevelt's Greenbelt towns to Broadacre City was one of them. Finally, in sharp contrast to those who worshipped at the shrine of St. Ayn, Frank Lloyd Wright distrusted the profit motive. So disgusted was Frank Lloyd Wright with it, in fact, that Frank Lloyd Wright briefly became a Stalinist fellow traveler in the late 1930s.

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