Imagine a docile guy, soft spoken but driven. Loyal to friends, superiors, co-workers and family. A great father, a loving husband. A private man, living a life without scandal, secret or serious offense. Got a good image in your head? Ok, now imagine the exact opposite and make this man a genius, prodigy architect that defines truly American building design. This is Frank Lloyd Wright.
I’d like to say, for the record, that this is NOT an article about Frank Lloyd Wright. 90% of what ends up being written will be about him, but the star of this particular blog post is his portfolio of structures, which somehow managed to stay true to his original principles, yet fundamentally evolve over the 60-ish years he worked as an architect.
It’s difficult to grab just one house and say, “Here, this is what he did and what they all symbolized.” We’ve been able to do that, more or less, for past blog posts, but Frank Lloyd Wright very much defies such simple categorization. That’s not going to stop me from trying, though.
This is the Nathan G. Moore House, and if Mr. Wright were alive and cared enough, he’d probably send someone to beat me up for posting this house first, because he hated it. He spent his entire life attempting to distance himself from the architectural traditions that, even in America, tended to draw exclusively from European influences, even going so far as to totally remove attics and basements from later designs, but when he first started, he needed the business enough that he’d cater to his client’s wishes.
But even with the obvious Tudor Revival influences, you can tell from the particular massing, the long, horizontal line of the porch and the severe cantileverization, that Frank (I felt Mr. Wright was too formal and I can’t be bothered to write out his full name each time) was developing a reserve of brilliance that would manifest very quickly and zig-zag through several style changes.
I give you Fallingwater, one of Frank’s signature designs. Here we get to see his honest, organic style at its full potential. Obviously not Tudor Revival, but you can definitely see the similarities. There’s a density to the structure that melds perfectly with those horizontal sweeps of the balconies. And above it all, you see how Frank believed buildings should seem natural – as if they had grown there all by themselves. Somehow simple and inhumanly complex all at once.
His work’s evolution culminated in what were called his Usonian homes. The word, an Esperanto name for the United States, was taken on by Frank to signify a design of homes that was, stylistically, solely American. I find it funny that he’d use a foreign name to do this, but whatever. He built just 60 or so of these homes, but also used the motif in city planning.
The Rosenbaum House, widely noted as the greatest example of Frank’s Usonian works. You can still see that horizontal line and cantileverization he was so fond of, the natural look and clean design. The roof acted as a source of passive solar heating, the wide overhang helped cool the interior in the summer. It had a carport, a word Frank himself coined. According to Frank, this style defined what it was to be American and to own a home without centuries worth of European baggage.
Frank Lloyd Wright was named “the greatest American architect of all time” by the American Institute of Architects in 1991. Two sons (one of who invented Lincoln Logs) and a grandson are all architects of note. And he lived a life full of dramatic craziness. I won’t go into detail, but suffice it to say, it involved betrayal, 3 marriage and one long-term affair, escaping to foreign countries, drug abuse, human trafficking, fire, murder and suicide.
But beyond all that, he is the definition of early American architecture and one of the biggest proponents of leaving European influences behind in an effort to be true to our own style. His houses were advanced for their time and still amazing today. If you want a home designed with any of his many styles, we’re more than able to help.