Influencer spotlight – Frank Lloyd Wright
Welcome to our new story series – Influencer Spotlight. Here we will take a look at the masters of design who inspire us every day. We couldn’t think of a better icon to start things off, the legendary Frank Lloyd Wright, a modern architect who developed an organic and distinct American style.
The early years
At the age of 26, Wright established his own architectural practice and went on to design the Winslow House in River Forest, which with its horizontal emphasis and expansive, open interior spaces was the first example of Wright’s revolutionary style, later dubbed “organic architecture.”
As a young talent, Wright was most widely known for his “Prairie School” of architecture. These were single-story homes with low, pitched roofs and long rows of casement windows, employing only locally available materials and wood that was always unstained and unpainted, emphasizing its natural beauty.
In 1915, the Japanese Emperor commissioned Wright to design the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. He spent the next seven years on the project, a beautiful and revolutionary building that Wright claimed was “earthquake proof.” Only one year after its completion, the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 devastated the city and tested the architect’s claim. Wright’s Imperial Hotel was the city’s only large structure to survive the earthquake.
Family Affairs – The Taliesin series
One of his most personal projects – the family home he built in Spring Green, Wisconsin: Taliesin. The home was built on the land of his maternal ancestors, the name – a Welsh word for “shining brow”, was one of the most acclaimed works of his life. The house was unfortunately destroyed twice by tragic fires, forcing Wright to re-build it over and over as an effort to, in his words “wipe the scare from the hill.” In 1932 he founded the Taliesin Fellowship, an immersive architectural school based out of his own home and studio. Today the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation is committed to the preservation of the Taliesin estate – currently a place to celebrate architecture and the arts.
At the time when most artists are preparing for retirement, Wright suddenly burst back onto the public stage at the age of 70 and started to design many of the greatest buildings of his life. Wright announced his return to the profession in dramatic fashion in 1935 with Fallingwater, a residence for Pittsburgh’s acclaimed Kaufmann family.
Shockingly original and astonishingly beautiful and one of our favourites, Fallingwater is marked by a series of cantilevered balconies and terraces constructed atop a waterfall in rural southwestern Pennsylvania. It remains one of Wright’s most celebrated works, a national landmark that is widely considered one of the most beautiful homes ever built.
In 1943, Wright began a project that consumed the last 16 years of his life—designing the Guggenheim Museum of modern and contemporary art in New York City. “For the first time art will be seen as if through an open window, and, of all places, in New York. It astounds me,” Wright said upon receiving the commission. An enormous white cylindrical building spiraling upward into a Plexiglass dome, the museum consists of a single gallery along a ramp that coils up from the ground floor.
While Lloyd’s design was highly controversial at the time, it is now revered as one of New York City’s finest buildings. Frank Lloyd Wright sadly passed away on April 9, 1959, at the age 91, six months before the Guggenheim opened its doors.
Wright is widely considered the greatest architect of the 20th century, and the greatest American architect of all time. He perfected a distinctly American style of architecture that emphasised simplicity and natural beauty in contrast to the elaborate and ornate architecture that had prevailed in Europe.
With seemingly superhuman energy and persistence, Wright designed more than 1,100 buildings during his lifetime, nearly one third of which he designed during his last decade.
Next time you’re visiting the big Apple and you feel like being in the presence of greatness, take a stroll through the Guggenheim.