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Frank Lloyd Wright
The way you live is being directly influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright’s innovations in residential architecture. Mr. Wright’s “organic architecture” was a radical departure form the traditional architecture of his day, which was dominated by European styles that dated back hundreds of years or even millennia. He contributed the Prairie and Usonian houses to the familiar of American residential design, and elements of his designs can be found in a large proportion of homes today. While most of his designs were single-family, his collections include houses of worship, skyscrapers, resorts, museums, government offices, gas stations, bridges, and other masterpieces showing the diversity of Frank Lloyd Wright’s talent.
Not only did Wright possess genius skills in the spatial cognition, his approach to architecture through geometric manipulation demonstrates one aspect of his creativeness. Frank Lloyd Wright’s views on architectural space, ornamentation, and relationship to site, and concerning the place of architecture in art, life, and philosophy have inspired generations of architects and artists all over the world. Frank Lloyd Wright’s career was notable in several areas. As a practicing architect, he designed several hundred buildings, of which around 500 were built. Within his roles of architectural theoretician and academic, he wrote several books on architecture, and founded and ran a successful school in the field, training many architects. Mr. Wright’s design went beyond the building to the finest details of the interior design spaces, including furniture, art glass, and other aspects of interior designs. Frank Lloyd Wright’s views on architectural space, ornamentation, and relationship to building sites, and concerning the place of architecture in art, life and philosophy have inspired generations of architects and artists all over the world. Frank Lloyd Wright was an innovator who drastically influenced architecture of the twentieth century around the world.
Frank Lloyd Wright was an architect with a democratic vision. By integrating the city into the countryside, Wright was envisioning a decentralized city that stressed agrarian, or rural pastoral, living and familial connectivity. Many of Wright’s ideals and visions are rooted in his life experiences. Specifically, his childhood experiences in the countryside made Wright highly critical of the city, which ignited his vision of the city rooted in the Jeffersonian values. He believed the role of an architect to be that of a builder, not only of buildings but of the social structure, because he felt that if society were given conditions in which building had intelligence and raison d’etre the whole structure of human society itself would have the substance of strength and beauty. It was stated in Brooks book Writings on Wright that Wright was “Interested in politics and affairs of the state, he believed that architecture as the plan-in-structure of all things was the all-inclusive basis for every civilization and culture. He repeatedly related architecture to democracy, considering democracy the highest form of aristocracy man has ever known, a society based on the sovereignty of the individual” (24-5). Wright’s early work reflects his democratic ideals, especially Oak Park, as an importance was placed on family. His ideas about democracy grew into the vision of Broadacre City, which emphasized the important influence that technology would have on his envisioned democracy. It was through this vision that Wright sought to build for citizens of the United States. His vision of the city was placed in the countryside, where people could live free from centralization. Here nature and city would blend into one entity. Within this entity, the structural forms will be built to merge into and become one with the natural landscape.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s childhood experiences would later have a significant impact on his architectural and city designs. After spending a part of his childhood moving from place to place, the Wright family settled at his maternal family’s farm in Wisconsin. Although the family customs and life had an effect on Wright’s democratic philosophy, the greatest impact on his work came from the Froebel blocks his mother had purchased for this future architect. Before her son was born, his mother had decided that her son was going to be a great architect. Using Froebel geometric blocks to entertain and educate her son, she appears to have struck on a genius her son possessed. His early childhood travels, life on the farm, and manipulations of the Froebel blocks would all influence the physical and the ideological aspects of Wright’s designs. Wright would have his self-promotion, along with his mother’s support, pushing him to achieve great things in the field of Architecture for decades to come.
At the age of twenty, Wright moved to Chicago where the great fires had destroyed most of the old city allowing it to be built with the skyscrapers of glass and steel. This complimented the trend of residential design, which used Victorian influence. Wright found a job as a draftsman with Chicago’s Silsbee Architectural Firm, where his first project, the Hillside Home, was built for his Aunts Nell and Jane. Frank left his first position within a year and found a position with one of Chicago’s best-known firms at the turn of the century, Alder & Sullivan. Wright’s second employer influenced the young architect in a way that would change the course of American architecture forever. He apprenticed to Sullivan, who was to become Wright’s greatest mentor. Wright learned much from Sullivan in the aspects of design and architectural philosophy. According to Fishman, Sullivan created an “Architecture for Democracy,” where democracy was defined as “freedom for individual development and expression” (104-5). Sullivan also attached great importance on the architect that is similar to Wright’s view of the architect. For Sullivan, the “well-being of the republic depended upon the architect” to create forms reflective of and contributive to the “democratic idea” (105). By adopting the credo of democratic form, Wright took to designing homes that reflected his growing democratic and symmetric designs. While with the firm, his assignment to the residential design contracts led him to moonlight beyond the firm’s contracts. This led him to leave the firm and establish on his own.
While in Chicago, Wright began to come into his own as an architect and as a social philosopher. Using the Lloyd-Jones’ family philosophies of unity, truth, harmony, and simplicity and Sullivan’s approach of “form follows function”, Wright quickly built up a practice in residential architecture. Patience, concentration, attention to detail, and constant revision marked Frank Lloyd Wright’s work in the studio. Wright took an integral approach to architecture by designing the interior furnishings of the buildings as well as the structure. 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). His homes at Oak Park were developed simply to reflect “democratic individuality” and the family, especially evident in Wright’s use of open spaces that centered around the hearth (111). Implicit in Wright’s designs at Oak Park was his developing views on society, which were highly influenced by the socio-political stances of the Progressive Party. According to Rosenbaum, the Progressives gave great weight to the individual and to the developing technologies used by corporate enterprises. As Rosenbaum points out, Wright was influenced by the “progressive causes of reform, modernization, better economic balance between cities and rural areas, equality between the sexes, and restraint of the excesses of the ruling class and advancement opportunities for the less fortunate” (28).
These social beliefs and views on modernization not only had an impact on Wright’s early work, but also impacted his later development of Broadacre City. Wright’s early criticisms of the city are evident in his later critique of the modern city. In Wright’s The Living City, he points to the problems inherent in the mechanization and centralization of the city and the attempts to develop solutions that focus on Jeffersonian democratic beliefs. On problems he sees with the modern city is that centralization has created a social structure based on the notion of rent, where property and work are given monetary values that serve to benefit the select few. From this scenario grows a society based on a system of production that controls consumption, which, consequently, creates a society that is functionally inorganic. Another problem Wright has with the modern, centralized city is the overabundance of skyscrapers in the overcrowded city. These skyscrapers not only bring about the exploitation of the citizens; they also bring about a concentration of traffic within the city. As a higher concentration of citizens inhabits the city, the traffic problem causes the city to become overwhelmed by population (30-60). Therefore, over the course of his career, Wright’s criticism of the modern city remained an ever-present factor in his work. Frank Lloyd Wright had
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