The philosophy behind iconic Frank Lloyd Wright architecture

Deemed the ‘greatest American architect of all time’ in a 1991 survey by the American Institute of Architects, Frank Lloyd Wright was a true visionary. He believed in the power of connecting architecture with its inhabitants, stating once that ‘the mother art is architecture. Without an architecture of our own we have no soul of our own civilisation’.

Hamburg - You're probably familiar with Frank Lloyd Wright, but what do you know about his design philosophy? Here's a closer look.

The beginnings: Prairie Style

Born in 1867 in Richland Center, Wisconsin, Frank Lloyd Wright began his illustrious career in Chicago where he worked directly under architect Louis Sullivan. His first independent commission was the William H. Winslow House, which typified what would be known as the Prairie Style. These homes were designed to reflect the low-slung, horizontal lines of the American prairie landscape, with lengthy rows of windows, low-pitched roofs and an absence of basements or attics. Interior walls were minimised to create an open plan to foster a sense of community for inhabitants and a harmonious connection to the natural world.

During the Great Depression, Wright realised the need for affordable housing and developed his signature Usonian house design with the Herbert Jacobs House in Madison. These properties were streamlined, with a simplistic approach to the construction, proving that beautifully minimal architecture could be affordable.

Later works: organic architecture

Frank Lloyd Wright helped to pioneer the concept of organic architecture, with interiors and exteriors in balanced harmony. In this philosophy, a house could be compared to a living organism with all parts relating to the whole, making form and function wholly intertwined.

Fallingwater in rural Pennsylvania is one of the most iconic works of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture. Designed for the Kaufmann family in 1935, Fallingwater blends seamlessly into the forest greenery of rural Pennsylvania, cantilevered over a rushing waterfall. It mirrors the natural pattern of surrounding rocks with its stacked shape, built from concrete, glass and stone.

Taliesin West is another important work from this period, constructed to serve as winter retreat for Frank Lloyd Wright in the rugged desert landscape of Arizona. The structure merges with the landscape in this piece, constructed from local rock bound with desert sand and accented with redwood beams and splashes of Cherokee red.

However, perhaps Wright’s best-known work is the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, designed in 1943. It’s a thrilling, innovative open plan space, with a spiral ramp giving way to an airy domed skylight that illuminates the space with natural light.

The design philosophy of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture

Wright believed in creating environments that were both functional and humane, focused not only on a building’s appearance but how it would connect with and enrich the lives of those inside it. Moreover, at its core, his organic design philosophy states that architecture holds a relationship with its time and place.

Houses like Fallingwater blend beautifully into their natural surroundings, both drawing inspiration from and contributing to the setting. Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture showcases materials like wood and stone in their authentic state, rather than twisting them into something new, a trend that continues today.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture has left a lasting legacy for today’s creators of luxury architecture. His influence can be clearly seen in thoughtful approaches to natural materials, the blending of indoor and outdoor spaces and the rise of eco-friendly design.

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