Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright was an American architect, probably the most famous American architect, born in 1867. Wright wanted his buildings to rise naturally from the land that surrounded them, as you’ll see. His buildings are often low to the ground and comprised of straight lines forming geometrical patterns. They are not symmetrical. Remember the ideas of the de stijl movement in the Netherlands? Wright greatly influenced those artists and architects.

He began his architectural career in Oak Park, Illinois where he designed the Unity Temple and many homes. Since I have been to Oak Park and seen these buildings, they will be the main focus of this post.
The image above is Unity Temple. I visited during a hot summer day and was the only person in the building so I was allowed to wander as I pleased. It’s impossible to describe the feeling in that building but I’ll try. There is a spirituality but it is not like that found in most churches. It is not as dark inside because the walls are wood and the stained-glass windows are mostly clear with colored geometrical patterns. Steps can be found in each corner of the chapel and the building exists on three levels, though it feels like only one floor from which you can somehow float upward. Wright designed the pews and light fixtures, as well as the building itself and the stained-glass windows. Below is a picture of the interior.
The next few images come from the neighborhoods surrounding Unity Temple and are all Wright-designed homes. The first was Wright’s own home and studio when he lived in Illinois. When I visited, some work was being done to restore the front of the home but you should notice the sculptures above the door. Yep: designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. They’re called “The Bolders.”

One of the most recognized homes that Wright designed is Falling Water, shown below. Notice how the building seems to fit into the land perfectly. The river actually runs underneath part of the house. Much of the building, as you can see, is made from stones that match those found in the river and the beams are brown like trees that surround the house.
Finally, the last picture I’ll show you today is of the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. It spirals out of the ground on the corner of a city block. There is no nature to be found here... or is there. When you step inside it is like entering a seashell. The green glass is the ceiling of the building and the spiraling ramps direct you through the building, beginning at the top and traveling downward.
I had originally planned to create a Wright-inspired ginger bread house as a project to tie-in to this article but last night on the Food Network someone built Falling Water and that convinced me of how difficult that project would really be. Still, you should check it out if you get a chance. The show will be replayed on Dec. 22 at 6:00pm and Dec. 23 at 3:00pm (Eastern Standard Time). It’s quite impressive.

As an interesting side note, Frank Lloyd Wright’s son, John Lloyd Wright, invented Lincoln Logs in 1918.

EDITED TO ADD: Create Your Own Edible Painting, includes a cookie inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright's stained-glass designs

EDITED TO ADD: The Wright 3 by Blue Balliett, book review

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Peter said...

I have admired FLR since I was very young ad discovered "my" first archtiects! A very nice article... and what a chance to be able to walk around as you did! I trust that the present owners of the different houses you showed must keep them "as they are"? I know that in some of the Guimard appartment houses in Paris, the interiors were often transformed by more recent owners. This was still possible some decades ago, but fortunately not any more.

Anonymous said...

We also are FLR fans and have taken the spectacular tour of Falling Water - an amazing experience! And yes, people do not remodel his homes anymore. Anyone who gets the opportunity to own a FLR home will go to great lenghts and expense to restore them to original. It is also interesting to note that there are a few homes - 2 in Wisconsin and 1 in Texas - that I know of where you can rent the home for a vacation experience.

Jessica said...

I was not able to enter the homes in Oak Park as they are the property of private owners and not open to the public, but it is my understanding, as my mom said, that anyone who is able to purchase a Wright home keeps it up as the architect intended. Really, the only unfortunate fate that may befall Wright's designs is destruction. Thirteen, I believe, of his designs have been destroyed, two only recently when Hurricane Katrina struck.

I did not know that some of the homes were available for rent, though I did read that the home of one of Wright's ex-wives has been open as a bed-and-breakfast for some time. It is located in Oak Park and makes it very convenient to walk the neighborhood and look at the house pictured here. It's shocking how easy it is to spot the Wright houses in the neighborhood!

Peter said...

Thanks for these comments to my comments and questions!