Frank Lloyd Wright: the father of "organic architecture"

Genius and dreamer, ladies' man and innovator, founder of "organic architecture" and lover of "open plans" - Frank Lloyd Wright is today considered the most influential of American architects. Who is he - a man who shocked his contemporaries not only with architectural solutions, but also with the vicissitudes of his personal life, and ultimately changed modern architecture?

Frank was born in 1867 in a religious family in the northern United States. His mother cherished the dream of an architectural career for her son - so from childhood he was surrounded by thematic books, games and prints. Taking financial responsibility for the family from an early age, Wright attended the University of Wisconsin and moonlighted as an assistant to a local construction worker. However, financial difficulties did not allow him to be awarded an academic degree - and already in 1887 in Chicago, Wright got his first job in an architectural bureau.

At age of 23, he ran all residential property projects at Chicago's Adler & Sullivan. Sullivan became his mentor and example, under whom Wright worked for 6 years. However, he was forced to leave the bureau due to a conflict with the founders: Wright designed houses "on the side", which did not suit the owners. In 1893, Wright founds his own architectural bureau, which in 8 years has implemented more than 50 projects.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, Frank Lloyd Wright has been actively creating his own architectural style, which brought him not only fame, but also forever imprinted him as one of the leading architects of our time - the "style of the prairie". Prairie Houses is the embodiment of reasonable practicality, devoid of triviality. These are elongated lines, continuation of the environment, integrity with nature, continuity of architectural space. The shape of the building follows from the surrounding landscape and complements it. These are horizontal compositions, the roofs and terraces taken outside the house, open plans, the use of natural materials in the decoration.

Willits House, Illinois (USA)

The interiors of the houses are the same important as the exteriors. Wright's ideal was a Japanese home, almost devoid of furniture and decorative elements. Most of the building plans had a cruciform shape, in the center of which there is a fireplace: the architect wanted to get away from the usual structure of a house with many closed rooms, creating a single room. The architect developed most of the furniture personally - every detail must be comprehended and take its place in the space. He integrated heating, water supply, and lighting systems into the structure of the building, achieving the unity of all its elements: "Carpets on the floor and curtains are as much a part of the building as plaster walls and roof tiles."

It is interesting that the "House of Robie" - one of the most striking "prairie houses" - was extremely negatively assessed by Wright's contemporaries: the management of the University of Chicago initiated its demolition in order to build a student campus at this place. The building was saved by chance: it was bought by a construction company. In total in the period 1901-1909. Wright built 76 prairie homes for middle-class and business people.

Martin's house
Robie's house

Since 1910, after the publication of a number of articles by Wright in the German press, Europe has started talking about him: who is he - a young architect who solves planning problems that are not feasible for the greatest minds of the Old World? Wright's name thundered in local architectural communities - he was even offered to organize solo exhibitions.

One of Wright's most iconic and certainly most romantic building is the Taliesin Residence. Built in 1911, the manor became the embodiment of the architect's romance with the wife of one of his client, Martha Boswick Cheney, who later became his companion and mistress of the residence. The valley in which the estate was built has belonged to the Wright family for several generations. "... Not in the ground, but out of the ground" - this is how the architect described the location of the house, which organically "grows" out of the surrounding landscape. The house consists of three sections - living area, office and outbuildings. Local limestone was used in the construction, as well as sand from the shallows of the neighboring river. The estate is complemented by a landscaped park and swimming pool.

Residence "Taliesin"

Wright's meteoric rise in popularity in the early 20th century was replaced by a period of lull in the 30s: the architect had practically no large orders left. He devoted several years to work in Japan - in his native states, his style was criticized by his contemporaries. There he opened an office and built 14 buildings, including the famous Imperial Hotel - which suffered several earthquakes and was eventually destroyed.

Imperial Hotel, Tokyo

Later he got the idea to create a creative workshop in the USA, in which he met the son of a wealthy businessman Edgar Kaufman. This friendship led to an unexpected result: the businessman allocates a fabulous sum for the construction of an entire city, designed by Wright. Wright's next project for Kaufman was a country house - and it marked the beginning of a new milestone in the architect's work.

Wright's business style is as shocking as his personal life. Many projects were altered and rebuilt already in the process of implementation, which led to a multiple rise in the cost of work. Often, Wright compensated for this rise in cost from his own funds.

One of Wright's most famous projects is an iconic symbol of genius and procrastination: the architect put off work on it for several months, and later created a sketch a couple of hours before the client's arrival (without missing out on the smallest details). "House above the waterfall", built in 1935-39 - a building using factory elements and reinforced concrete structures that does not deviate from the ideas of organic architecture. Wright's idea is to make the waterfall part of the home: “I want you to live with the waterfall, not just look at it. It should be a part of your life. "

House above the waterfall

“The house above the waterfall” is a part of the landscape: during its construction not a single tree was cut down, and part of the cliff on which it is located was inside the building as an interior detail. Adjusted for dollar inflation, home construction costs were estimated at nearly $ 2.5 million at the end of the 2010s. Now "House over the Waterfall" is a museum open to the public.

Interiors of "House above the waterfall"

Since the 30s. Wright shifted his focus to more popular middle-class homes. He called this design "North American" - compact and technological, they still adhered to the principles of "prairie houses": wide roof, narrow windows, one-story and frame structures. The U.S.O.N.A Homes were Wright's concept of horizontal urbanization, which significantly influenced the character of the American low-rise suburb: one-story buildings meant the overcrowded city was distributed among agricultural suburbs.


The pinnacle of Wright's architectural creativity is the Solomon Guggenheim Museum in New York, which he had been building for 16 years. Outwardly, the building looks like a spiral, inside it looks like a shell. The exhibits are viewed from top to bottom: visitors ascend to the upper floor by elevator and gradually descend along the central spiral ramp. The ornament on the fence of the museum is figures from the paintings of V.V. Kandinsky.

Solomon Guggenheim Museum

At the age of 70, the tireless architect travels to Arizona, where he builds the West Teilisin estate - the residence of the Wright family, as well as an architecture school and workshop. Today, the complex houses the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, which is dedicated to preserving his heritage.

Manor «West Teilisin»

The last years of Wright's work have been characterized by a shift away from organic architecture to universal, international homes. He abandons right angles in favor of a circle. His popularity was at its peak, he was praised in every possible way in periodicals and architectural communities. He devoted most of his time to writing books, of which about 20 came out in his life.

Over the course of his life, the architect has created more than 1,100 projects, of which more than 500 have been implemented - dissimilar, daring and bold, not leaving indifferent both critics and ordinary people. He passed away at the age of 91, 6 months before the completion of the Guggenhain Museum. And after his death, many of his projects continue to be implemented - in 1997, the construction of the Monona Terrace conference center was completed.

Author: Elena Belenkaya

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