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Frank lloyd wright innovator i

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Frank lloyd wright innovator i

Frank Lloyd Wright: Innovator in American Architecture

"...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." - Frank Lloyd Wright 1867-1959

It appears that from the very beginning, Frank Lloyd Wright was destined by fate or determination to be one of the most celebrated architects of the twentieth century. Not only did Wright possess genius skills in the spatial cognition, his approach to architecture through geometric manipulation demonstrates one aspect of his creativeness. Forever a great businessman, Wright seemed to know how to please his clients and still produce some of the most innovative and ridiculed buildings of the early century. While the United States appeared to be caught up in the Victorian style, Frank Lloyd Wright stepped out in front to face the challenge of creating "American architecture" which would reflect the lives of the rapidly growing population of the Midwest United States. Howard Gardner in his book "Creating Minds" does not make any mention of Frank Lloyd Wright, an innovator who drastically influenced architecture of the twentieth century around the world.


Born in 1867 Wisconsin, Frank Lincoln Wright grew up in the comfort and influence of a Welsh heritage. The Lloyd-Jones clan, his mother's side of the family, would have great influence on Frank throughout his life. Unitarian in faith, the extended family lived within close proximity to each other thus enabling a strong support system for those born or married into the clan. Great themes within the Lloyd-Jones clan included education, religion, and nature. Wright's family spent many evening listening to William Lincoln Wright read out loud the works of Emerson, Thoreau, and Blake. Uncle Jenkins was the family minister while Aunts Nell and Jane would open a school of their own which following the philosophies of, German educator, Froebel. With truth and unity stressed, Wright was brought up in a comfortable, but certainly not warm household. His father, William, moved from job to job, dragging his family across the United States. Financial troubles plagued the William Wright family and eventually they would return to the support of the Lloyd-Jones clan in the hills of Wisconsin. Despite reluctance from the clan, his parents divorced when Frank was still young. Wright would change his middle name to Lloyd. His mother, Anna (Lloyd-Jones) Wright, relied heavily upon her many brothers and sisters to help raise her children. Frank spent many hours working in the fields with his uncles, and was intellectually guided by the Aunts and his mother. Before her son was born, Anna had decided that her son was going to be a great architect. Using Froebel's geometric blocks to entertain and educate her son, Anna appears to have struck on a genius her son possessed. Use of the imagination was encouraged and Wright was given free run of the playroom filled with paste, paper, and cardboard. On that door were the words, SANCTUM SANCTORUM. Wright would have his self-promotion (demonstrated by the opening quote), along with his mother's support, pushing him to achieve great things in the field of Architecture for decades to come. Frank was seen as a dreamy and sensitive child, and cases of him running away while working on the farmlands with some uncles are recorded. This pattern of running away appears to continue throughout his lifetime.


In 1887, at the age of twenty, Frank Lloyd Wright, broke from the comfort of his childhood in Wisconsin and moved to Chicago. Chicago during the late nineteenth century was an exciting place. The fire of 1871 destroyed most of the old city allowing for it to be rebuilt in the new industrial age. Skyscrapers were the all the rage in architecture, using steel and glass to create "shrines" piercing the sky. This complimented the trend in residential homes where Victorian influence created pointed gables, lace-like ornamentation, plaster walls, and wooden structures. With education in Engineering from the University of Wisconsin, Wright found a job as a draftsman in a Chicago architectural firm. It is rumored that Uncle Jenkins (the family minister), now in Chicago guiding a growing Unitarian community, helped his nephew Frank to find the position. During his short time with Silsbee, Frank began his first project, the Hillside Home for his Aunts Nell and Jane. Maybe because he wanted to break away from the Lloyd-Jones clan's aid, or because he was impatiently moving forward, Frank left his first job within a year and found a position with one of the best known firms in Chicago at the turn of the century, Alder & Sullivan . Sullivan was to become Wright's greatest mentor. With the new industrial age, came a growing suburban population, and a division between home and work. While the firm of Alder & Sullivan concentrated on the demand for downtown commercial buildings, Wright was assigned the residential contracts. His work soon expanded as he accepted jobs outside the firms assigning. Sullivan discovered this in 1893 and called Frank on a breach of contract. Rather than drop the "night jobs", Wright walked out of the firm. Once again, Wright would leave the confines of comfort to strike out for himself.


Using the Lloyd-Jones' philosophies of unity, truth, harmony, and simplicity; and Sullivan's approach of "form follows function", Wright quickly built up a practice in residential architecture. At one point in his career, Wright would produce 135 buildings in ten years. Patience, concentration, attention to detail, and constant revision marked Frank Lloyd Wright's work in the studio; things that would be lacking in his personal relationships. Many stated that Wright had a great amount of nervous energy, and allowed no interference or suggestions from his clients. Wright took an integral approach to architecture by designing the interior furnishings of the building as well as the structure. He seemed to possess a skill of site memorization, and would visit the grounds sometimes only once before creating a building which blended with and complimented the site. His own houses were continuing experiments, especially the first one in Oak Park to which his studio was attached. Using nature as inspiration and geometric abstraction, both obvious influences from his childhood in Wisconsin, Wright created a unique type of architecture which would become known to the general public as the Prairie style. Marked by horizontal lines, this form would dominate his work from 1900-1913. Wright included the technology of the cities into the suburban residences of his design. Wright would continue to pass through at least two more recognizable stages in his architectural design, the textile block (1917-1924), and the Usonian (1936-1959).

In 1909 Wright took off for Europe, once again walking out of a comfortable home life including a wife and six children and a well established business. His European travels brought him fame across the sea at a greater level than that he had received in his native homeland. Wright did not stay long in Europe, returning in 1910 to Chicago and Wisconsin where he began construction on his second home, Taliesin in 1911. The year 1913 brought Frank a contract for Midway Gardens in downtown Chicago, an entertainment park on the south side of Chicago which exists today only in the original plans and drawings. In 1914 disaster struck Wright's personal life and work on one fateful day, when Taliesin, completed by this time, burned and his present mistress, her two children, and four of Wright's leading workmen, were murdered by a raging servant. Wright again ran away. This time it was across the Pacific to Japan.


The Imperial Hotel project provided Wright with an engineering problem as well as an architectural challenge. Finished in 1922, the Imperial hotel was criticized for its aesthetic design, but when it survived a 1923 earthquake, which left the majority of Tokyo in rubble, it found praise. Wright had managed to design a "floating foundation" for the building which combined oriental simplicity, in modern world comfort. This was one of the few periods in Wright's life were his financial situation was at a positive level. Returning to the United States in 1922, Wright pursued the use of a new material in residential homes, concrete. Most of these "textile block" houses were built in California with a Mayan and Japanese influence. Though some claimed that Wright had peaked in 1910, with the Prairie houses, others claimed that in 1924 Wright's development was only just beginning.


A 1932 autobiography sparked new interest in the architect and pulled Wright out of a plateau in his work with two of his most famous buildings: Fallingwater, Edgar J. Kaufmann's home in Bear Run, Pennsylvania, and the Johnson Wax Company Administration Building in Racine,Wisconsin. Wright's last "style", Usonian, was caused by a shift in society in the 1930's. Adapting architecture to the simple and economically tight lives of families in the 1930's, Wright used down scaling to bring the house to a more appropriate human level and reflect the informal and comfortable lives of the average American family. The Wright Fellowship was opened in 1932, welcoming apprentices to live, learn, and work at Taliesin, an idea comparable to that of a medieval manorial estate, and reflective of Aunt Nell's and Aunt Jane's Hillside House. Wright taught principles and philosophies of architecture, not a style. Many apprentices came out of the large, caring, and often chaotic community to complete successful career's in the world of architecture. During the thirties, Wright formed a social vision, associating the evils of society with the modern city. This was expressed through his design of Broadacre City, a section of an idealistic decentralized and restructured nation resembling not a city and not an agrarian community, but something in between. Wright continued to produce work into the forties and fifties including houses, churches, theaters, and stores. The Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan is said by some to be his last great work, as he passed away in April 1959, six months before the museum opened. Wright left behind hundreds of plans that are being pursued today. Ground breaking for Monona Terrace in Madison, Wisconsin occurred not three months ago. This Wright design, conceived fifty years ago, includes government offices, an auditorium, and rail terminal all in one mammoth civic center.


By the time of his death in 1959, Frank Lloyd Wright had produced architecture for more than seventy years. What is even more remarkable is that Wright had redesigned American architecture for at least a century and created an area of the domain which America could claim as it's own. As early as 1894, Wright was defining his philosophy of architecture. In a 1927 essay entitled "In the Cause of Architecture" Wright presented an outline stressing architectural design as truthful and obedient to purpose, site, occupants, and materials. He believed that buildings should be integral units, simple, unique, serving civilization and eliminating the "box" effect of the past. Space in Wright's design was fluid, free, and informal. His scales were brought down to create comfort for the occupants and a feeling of oneness with the house and the natural settings. Wright used materials which would blend the house into the setting, and limited the variety of materials within a project. Stone, brick, wood, stucco, concrete, copper, and glass were all manipulated by Wright in a distinct way, that had never been done before. His exteriors and interiors of a buildings varied little, as he philosophized that one should move naturally into a shelter, feeling a certain flow rather than an abrupt transition. Wright often used the colors of autumn in the Midwest, however red was his signature especially in 1930's. For light he relied heavily upon the sun's power, and many of his building included skylights or subtle electrical lighting. The ornamentation should compliment all this, not distract from it . Treating the building as a integral unit, Wright often designed down to the littlest detail including all dining ware, furniture, and statues. His geometric designs were interpretations of nature. In furniture, textiles, and accessories, all designed ...

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