Frank Lloyd Wright. Sure, he’s a famous architect with a household name. But what’s the big deal? As an architectural historian, I often get asked what my favorite architectural style or time period is. The second most common question I get is my opinion of Frank Lloyd Wright. People love to have opinions about Frank Lloyd Wright. Having visited a lot of Frank Lloyd Wright sites recently (and with more on my list!), I thought it would be nice to round up a list of things I look for and appreciate about Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture. Accompanying this piece are photos of the Thomas Hardy House, a beautiful little 1905 house in Racine, Wisconsin, designed by Wright in 1905.
- Lines. They may have leaky roofs, but the lines on any Wright house are impressive. The lines are so good that architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable likened Wright’s work to the direction architecture took with the advent of computer aided drafting. Just take a look at these Thomas Hardy House pictures for an example.
- They make you think. Wright is known for his entryways that are really “pathways of discovery.” Following paths at odd angles and trying to locate the front door are Wright’s ways of making you look at and contemplate the building. They work.
- Chicago architect and Wright’s mentor, Louis Sullivan, said, “Our architecture reflects us, as truly as a mirror.” Wright’s buildings, which span from the 1890s to the 1950s, reflect an evolving American society. Wright was engrossed in how the modern American family functioned, and how buildings could be optimized for their uses. The open floor plan but the closed off kitchen–Wright may have been cutting edge but he was also a product of his time.
- The more you see, the more interesting they get. Like any body of work, Wright’s buildings inform each other and seeing more of them gives you puzzle pieces to others, as well as Wright’s developing thought. Take Wright’s Bach House, which was built at a crossroads: post-Prairie style and pre-Usonian. Styles, like anything else, don’t exist in vacuums.
- The details. Along with his impressive sense of the large scale (just look at those lines!), Wright had an eye for details. Sometimes he may have overstepped his role of architect in perfecting his art: clients have stories of Wright delivering un-asked-for vases (and then a bill), or pulling out their flower arrangements because they weren’t the right type of flower for the space. These are humorous stories but all that said, the longer you spend in any Wright space, the more details will catch your eye. In a Wright house, everything is a necessary piece of the whole.
Got something that didn’t make the list? Or other thoughts on Frank Lloyd Wright? Leave a comment below and let me know!
Sources and Further Reading:
You can read more about the Thomas Hardy House in this Frank Lloyd Wright Trust article.
The Wright in Racine site has further details on the house’s restoration and includes interior photos.
Racine, Wisconsin, is also home to the SC Johnson Wax Building, which I previously wrote about here.
Check out more of my pieces about Frank Lloyd Wright on my Explore page.