“I’ve been accused of saying I was the greatest architect in the world and if I had said so, I don’t think

it would be very arrogant ...”

Geographical context:

Frank Lloyd Wright was an American architect. His buildings are located throughout the United States, but mostly in the greater Chicago area and in the mid-west.


Historical and Social context:

Wright was an extremely influential pioneer of modern design, and arguably the greatest architect of the 20th century. During his exceptionally long and prolific career over 500 of his designs for buildings were constructed, dating from 1893 to his death in 1959.

Wright was a first generation modernist who sought to rid American architecture of its European revivalist tendencies and to define a uniquely American architecture suited to American life and landscape.
Wright rejected the historical European styles that his fellow American architects emulated. He believed these styles had no relation to modern American life; “Classicism is a mask and does not reflect transition. How can such a static expression allow interpretation of [modern American] life as we know it? A fire station should not resemble a French Chateau, a bank a Greek temple and a university a Gothic Cathedral”, he said. After a brief spell studying engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Wright served as senior draughtsman with Louis Sullivan. In 1893 Wright set up his own practice, but Sullivan’s ideas about architectural structure, integral ornament and functional design remained with Wright throughout his career.

and to Wright’s design for a Jewish synagogue in Philadelphia. These grand houses became known as his Prairie Houses.  Wright had a major influence on European architects. This is why a Wright house in suburban Los Angeles is different in style to a Wright family home in the Arizona Desert or to a Wright house in the woods of Kentucky. Wright’s career took off again in the mid-1930s when he was aged in his late 60s and when most architects of his generation were either retired or deceased.Historical and Social context:  Wright was primarily a designer of American homes. Wright believed that fundamentally a building had to be ‘organic’. as well as grand masterpieces like ‘Fallingwater’. . In 1909 he toured Europe and at the same time the Wasmuth Papers were published. it’s place (the nature of it’s immediate physical environment and the culture of the people) and it’s requirements (the needs of it’s inhabitants). Dutch and German architects were impressed with his simplified geometric forms.  Strictly speaking there is no single Wright ‘style’. The Johnson Wax Headquarters and the Guggenheim Museum. a portfolio of his Prairie houses. Wright designed according to set principles rather than a pre-determined visual vocabulary. his arrangement of planes in three dimensions. meaning that it must be harmoniously conceived according to its time (the materials and technologies of the age). flowing spaces. The next 20 years were the most prolific of his career and he designed and built over 140 Usonian houses for middle-income Americans. This influence is particularly evident in designs by De Stijl designers and in the early works of Mies van der Rohe. He first made his name designing houses for wealthy clients in the mid-western States between 1900 and 1916. his cantilevered structures and open. the Larkin Building and Unity Temple.

The influence of the Arts and Crafts movement is evident in the craftsmanship. Wright‟s „master‟. materials and ornamentation. not on it”. shaped his ideas about architectural form and function and taught him that ornament must be “of the building.Wright‟s mother was determined her son was going to be a great architect. the natural materials. She bought him a set of froebel blocks to play with. Wright later credited this as an influence in his work. Nature inspired Wright’s ideas about structure. clear. his colour schemes. Wright admired traditional Japanese architecture. Louis Sullivan. and simplicity of Wright’s furnishings. . with it‟s structural clarity. geometric design. dynamic spaces and harmony with nature.

1909 ‘Fallingwater’. 1906 The Johnson Wax complex. Chicago. Racine. Chicago. 1936 Unity Temple. 1938 . Bear Run.The Robie House.

compact emphasis. Integrated with site. Tall sash windows with shutters vs. gables. horizontal. . Chicago. designed between 1900 and 1916. Set back from the street with hidden entrance Broad eves. Fashionable Victorian villa typical of the time F. Ward Willets House. Wrap-around porch with decorative ironwork vs. balconies merge interior/exterior Bands of casement windows set under eves Low-pitched hipped roofs. broke with the fashionable American taste for homes in a European revival style. 1902 Oriented to the street with frontal entrance vs. unrelated to site vs. broad central chimney Low. spreading.Wright’s Prairie houses. several tall chimneys vs. Vertical. Steep-pitched roofs.L. Wright.

finely crafted Busy. heavy upholstery Patterned wallpaper. 1909 vs. Geometric. enclosed static space Dark. natural materials. accumulation . vs.Wright’s interiors were strikingly different to the prevailing American taste for Victorian-style rooms. vs. rugs. Fashionable drawing room typical of the time Living space of the Meyer May House . cluttered. vs. vs. opening-out space Oak furniture. unified organic* environment Simplicity. carpets Heavily ornamented to display wealth Layers of curtains to keep the light out Variety of period styles Elaboration. open-flowing. abstract and organic* Abstracted natural motifs in lamps and rugs In-built furnishings and fixtures Leadlight windows feature abstract natural motifs One single. vs. artiface. vs.

static. with doors that close shut to complete each boxed space. Wright equated this flowing spaciousness with American freedom and democracy. 1902. The spaces are „closed in‟.One of the most innovative aspects of Wright‟s style was his development of the open plan. But in Wright‟s houses the walls. doors and corners dissolve so that space flows from room to room. . specific. speak about the living space of their early Wright house and hear about space in the Chaney House. both built in Oak Park. and between inside and outside (above centre and right). 1903. Hear the current owners of the Heurtley House. from one level to another. In traditional houses of the time (above left) spaces are defined by the walls that enclose them.










Frank Lloyd Wright went one step further—designing a house nestled into a mountainside. with views that made the house appear to be part of nature itself .With Falling water.

" . Fallingwater is a man-made dwelling suspended above a waterfall.  Fallingwater has been described as the  "the best-known private home for someone not of royal blood in the history of the world. It offers an imaginative solution to a perennial American problem: how to enjoy a civilized life without intruding upon the natural world.

  .  To escape the pressures of business. By 1935. Kaufmann. Kaufmann undoubtedly envisioned a house overlooking the most outstanding feature of the property. a mountain stream cascading over dramatically projecting slabs of stone. the Kaufmanns’ country cabin was falling apart. Fallingwater was commissioned by Edgar J. Kaufmann and his family regularly left the city for their sixty-acre woodland retreat in the Allegheny Mountains. and Wright was invited to design them a new weekend residence. founder of a prominent Pittsburgh department store.

He studied the site from every point of view before making the audacious proposal to build the house on the side of the cliff.   . Wright believed that a country home should become part of the landscape Perched over a waterfall on Bear Run in the western Pennsylvania highlands. the rural retreat has also been called the fullest realization of Wright's lifelong ideal of a living place completely at one with nature.


 Reinforced-concrete cantilever slabs project from the rocks to carry the house over the stream. with a stairway from the living room giving direct access and the rush of falling water always echoing through the house. Every element of the architecture is meant to blur the distinction between the natural and built environments. and unusually low ceilings create the impression of a cave—a private. fieldstone interiors.  Deeply recessed rooms. and to integrate the residents into the out-of-doors.  . sheltered space within the natural scheme of things. The waterfall itself would be invisible from the interior but wholly integrated into the plan.

Fallingwater is constructed on three levels primarily of reinforced concrete. emphasizing the horizontal nature of the structural forms. a suspended stairway leads directly down to the stream. native sandstone and glass. and a vertical shaft of mitered glass merges with stone and steel to overlook the stream. On the third level immediately above. From the living room.     Soaring cantilevered balconies are anchored in solid rock Walls of glass form the south exposure. . terraces open from sleeping quarters.

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