These ideas proposed by Wright represent a half century of ingenuity
and unrivaled creativity. Wright was unquestionably a architectural
genius and was years ahead of his time. The biggest obstacle which held
Wright back throughout his career was the lack of technogaly that was
present during his time. As a architect, Wright accomplished more that
any other in history, with the possible exception of DaVincci or
Michangelo. His philosophy of Organic Architecture showed the world
that form and function could both by achieved to create a house that was
both true to nature and affordable. Wrights homes, have today become
monuments of greatness and distictionn. Most of them serve as museums,
displaying the his ideas and the achievements of a lifetime of
innovation. It wasn’t until Wright published “The Natural House”
however, that he fully was able to illustrate all of his ideas relating
toward housing. In the “Natural House” wright defines the meaning of
Organic Architecture and how it can be applied to creating housing which
provides a closeness to nature for the occupents. Wright was undoubtly
a romantic and individualist. His feeling toward nature and self
integrity can best be shown by comparing them to those shared by Emerson
and Thoreau. Wrights deep love of nature and his individualism were
formed from the events which influenced him as a child and up until his
days working for Louis Sullivan. In order to fully understand the ideas
which Wright proposed through his philosophy of Organic Architecture,
one must first understand the events and influences which led to their
As a child, Wrights parents always encouraged him to be a free thinker
and individualist. Both of his parents were intelligent and creative
people by nature. They, of all people had the greatest influence on
Wright. Throughout his life they were extreamly supportive of Wrights
dream of becoming an architect, and always made sure that he had books
and pictures of buildings that he could study and learn from. Wrights
parents had little money, but they always found the extra money needed
to support their childrens intrusts.
When Wright became old enough to begin learning about working, his
parents felt that sending him to his uncles dairy farm during his summer
break from school would provide him with the proper work ethics and
morals needed to become a responsible adult. The work on the farm was
rigorous and seemingly endless to Wright. He despised the chores which
he was required to do. Wright attempted to run away almost each summer
that he was sent there. However, his kind but stern uncle promised him
that all of his hard work would make him a better person and would teach
him responsibility. As the years passed, Frank began to dread working
on the farm less and less. He became fascinated with nature and
developed a deep respect for it. It was there, on a small Wisconsin
dairy farm where Wright began to ponder the theory of integrating
architecture with nature. Wright attributed his love toward nature and
his respect toward it, to the many summers which he spent on his uncles
The other major influence in Wrights life, was the collapsing of the
State of Wisconsin Capitol Building. At the time, Wright was only 13
when he witnessed the building collapse upon itself, killing all 40
workers who were inside it. Severely traumatized and unable to sleep
for weeks, Wright kept wondering why the tragic incident occurred.
Weeks later, it was revealed that the cause of the buildings collapse
was a lack of support from the pilars which held up the above 3
stories. The architect and the builder both reglected to test the
pilars before they were introduced into the buildings structural design.
After Wright learned this, he vowed that if he became a architect, he
would thourghly test all of the support membranes used in the
of all the building projects which he oversaw. The greatest factor
which Wright put forth in his philosophy of Organic Architecture was
that of safety. Wright felt that all buildings, whether they were
commercial or residential should be built and designed so that they were
structuraly sound as well as true to
Destined to be an architect right from the start, Frank Lloyd Wright’s own mother even “determined prenatally that her son should be an architect and had, to that end, hung engravings of the great cathedrals in her room” (Scully 14). Eventually, the engravings were moved to Wright’s room, along with Froebel maple blocks, which his mother had bought him (Scully 14; McCarroll 12). Wright recalled building frequently with these blocks, admitting that they had great influence on his work and helped develop his tendency to use perfect geometry in all his designs (McCarroll 12).
From the start of his career, Wright made it his goal to be a prestigious American architect. As an amateur architect he even said, ” . . . having a good start, not only do I fully intend to be the greatest architect who has yet lived, but fully intend to be the greatest architect who will ever live. Yes, I intend to be the greatest architect of all time” (qtd. in Egger). Wright was often “viewed as self-absorbed and egotistical,” but perhaps those character traits were key to his success (Secrest 54).
Indeed, it may have been that super ego that helped bring him to the top of his field. He is now considered to be the most influential architect of his time, a man who “died well over a quarter of a century ago . . . yet remains a lively figure among us” (Gill 9). He wanted to be a truly American architect who created a distinct American architecture that evidenced true democracy and dignity (McCarroll 12). This he did, and did it well; there may never be another architect who will surpass his architectural genius.
Frank Lloyd Wright was born the first of three children to a family of Welsh heritage on June 8, 1867, in Richland Center, Wisconsin. Wright and his family were a bit nomadic in a sense, remaining unsettled throughout the early years of his life (Egger). During those summers, Wright made visits to his uncle’s farm near the Taliesin hill. As a child, he was very “sensitive and dreamy,” often running away at times to escape his chaotic life, wishing to be alone in the peaceful countryside (Egger).
Being able to be out in nature and free from civil life greatly effected Wright, intensifying his desire to be an architect (Egger). It was at that point in his life when he learned to be a part of nature, to be one with it, something that would later have great influence on his work. After his parents divorced in 1885 and his father abandoned the family, Wright began working for the Dean of the University of Wisconsin to help support his family. During that time, he was able to attend the University of Wisconsin’s School of Engineering.
However, he only completed two semesters due to his decision to leave Wisconsin in 1887 and move to Chicago to pursue a career in architecture. In 1889, Wright met and married his first wife, Catherine Tobin, and built a house in Chicago’s Oak Park suburb, where they made a home together and had six children. During that time, Wright began his architectural career working for such architects as Joseph Silsbee and Louis Sullivan. However, while working under Sullivan, in his spare time he designed homes on his own, which was not allowed under his contract with Sullivan.
He was terminated in June of 1893 and soon after began his own architectural practice. Wright began to create what he called “organic architecture,” which brought the environment and building together as one (Wright 227). His goal was not just to build another building, but create a work of art, one that would truly reflect the nature that surrounded it and also the client whom he was working for (Wright 228). Wright’s trademark stressed simplicity and a “demand that natural materials be treated naturally” (Sandefur 40).
The use of old and new materials was also significant in Wright’s work. Both materials had “their own lively contributions to make to the form, character and quality of any building” (Wright 229). Wright was well on his way to becoming the distinguished architect he wanted to be until the year 1909, when suddenly he decided to leave his wife and six children, as well as his practice. Wright gathered his things and left for Europe along with his lover, Mahmah Borthwick Cheney, who was the wife of one of his former clients.
That event in his life caused people to see a whole new side of Wright and many people were not too impressed to see him do such a thing to his family. When he returned with Cheney in 1911 to Wisconsin, his career had slowed down a bit. At this time, Wright built his famous Taliesin home, in which he and Cheney lived from 1912 until 1914. Then, suddenly, in the summer of 1914, tragedy struck. A servant murdered Cheney and her two children by setting fire to Taliesin. After the tragedy, Wright decided to completely rebuild Taliesin and make it even better than the first construction.
During the reconstruction of Taliesin, Wright’s personal life was a bit unsteady. He finally granted his first wife Catherine a divorce and soon after married Miriam Noel in 1923. By 1928, Wright and Noel were divorced, and by the fall of 1929, he was married again, but this time to his third and final wife, Olgivanna Milanoff. “In matters of design, Wright had perfect pitch; in other sectors of his life, he was out in left field, a mean-spirited, world-class fruitcake, an egomaniac of immense proportion” (Pinck 267).
He was known to be a very difficult man and most of his life he was very good at making enemies (Pinck 267). Wright was the type of man who was not so nice; he was “the kind of man you would not really want to know” (Sandefur 40). Contrary to his chaotic personal life, Wright’s professional life was definitely a bit more structured. Few buildings were produced during the WWII years; however, the post-war period to the end of Wright’s life was the most productive era of his career (Egger). After Wright built his renowned Taliesin home, his career skyrocketed.
People wanted new and unique homes just like Taliesin. In 1936, the Kaufman family home, known as Fallingwater, was constructed in Connellsville, Pennsylvania. Today, it is considered to be one of Wright’s most distinguished works. The masterpiece is noted as one of his trademark works because of how it has a close relationship with its environment (Scully 26). The house appears to emerge from the rocks above the waterfall it is built on and has a unique way of bringing the outdoors inside (Egger).
Wright believed that his buildings did not descend upon the earth; instead, “they rose upwards from the earth, expressing the essential humanism of his vision” (Sandefur 40). Aside from Fallingwater, the other building for which Wright is most remembered is the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, constructed between 1956 and 1959. The museum has spiral ramps throughout that provide a “dramatic setting for art, although critics have questioned the ramp’s suitability as an exhibition space” (Egger). According to Wright, the ramps’ illustrated “the process of organic development” (qtd.in Hertz 130).
Many of Wright’s designs and use of various materials often drew much controversy. He believed in using materials which would “blend the house into the setting . . . moving naturally into a shelter, feeling a certain flow rather than an abrupt transition” (Egger). Builders questioned whether or not certain buildings would be able to stand and be supported by such materials, especially at Fallingwater (Pinck 267). They doubted the practicality of his designs, such as the design of the Guggenheim, and never thought that he would be as famous as he is today.