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Romantic genius, artistic iconoclast, heroic individualist:
these were the labels Wright attached to himself, these the standards
against which he measured his own behavior. The works of Frank
Lloyd Wright made him the most famous American architect, and his
buildings ushered in a new era of architecture. The breadth of his
work, which spanned over seven decades, demanded attention.
However, more than pure volume of production underscored his
importance to the built environment, both past and present. The
mention of Frank Lloyd Wrights name most likely conjures up visions
of Prairie Houses, his famous Fallingwater, or perhaps, the
Guggenheim Museum. While these forms are all very different, they
do posses a common denominator, the principle of organic

Frank Lloyd Wright demonstrating
organic architecture, 1953

Background stepped in strong Unitarian, transcendental principles surrounding pastoral, educational,
agricultural aspects. Strongly Welsh mother fostered literature, poetry, philosophy and music which developed a
sense of human value and love of nature

Worked for architects J. Lyman Silsbee, Louis Sullivan & Dankmar Adler
Sullivan only architect Wright has acknowledged as having influenced him
more attitudinal style
concept of architectural honesty
form follows function, meaning honesty of expression essential pre-condition to creation of beautiful building

Attempted to create new architecture that reflected American democratic experience, based solely on
Americas democratic values

Believed in native materials; insisted that buildings grow naturally from their surrounding e.g. branch of a tree
a natural cantilever this influence apparent in his works such as the earth-hugging Prairie House to cascading
cantilevers of Fallingwater, from sky-lighted forest of concrete columns in Johnson Wax Administration Building,
the rugged beauty of Taliesin West, to spiraling snail-like Guggenheim Museum

Believed that the closer man associated himself with nature the greater his personal, spiritual and even
physical well-being grew and expanded as a direct result of this association

Described as having an intuitive understanding of social and human needs; designed to human scale

Career generally divided into 3 periods:
o 1893-WWI Prairie House new American Style
o Between WWI and mid-1930s, sometimes called the lost years relatively few commissions, most notable Tokyos
Imperial Hotel, period of experimentation with different building technologies and new designs based on geometric forms other
than square or rectangle, established Taliesin Fellowship
o Usonian Era 1932-1959 Usonian House: designed for families on modest income, generally single-storey house
with simple floor plans, based on a grid system, with radiant heat, a small central kitchen space and usually flat roofs also
large projects such as Fallingwater

Buildings demonstrated variety of form but all based on the same principles of organic architecture.
The philosophy of organic architecture was present consistently in his body of work and the scope of its meaning


mirrored the development his architecture. The core of this ideology was always the belief that architecture has an
inherent relationship with both its site and its time.

When asked in 1939 if there was a way to control a clients potentially bad taste in selecting housing designs
for his Broadacre City project, Wright replied, Even if he wanted bad ones he could find only good ones because
in an organic architecture, that is to say an architecture based upon organic ideals, bad design would be
unthinkable. In this way, the question of style was not important to Frank Lloyd Wright. A building was a
product of its place and its time, intimately connected to a particular moment and sitenever the result of an
imposed style.

In an essay entitled The New Architecture: Principles, he put forth nine principles of architecture that
reflected the development of his organic philosophy. The principles addressed ideas about the relationship of the
human scale to the landscape, the use of new materials like glass and steel to achieve more spatial architecture,
and the development of a buildings architectural character, which was his answer to the notion of style.

NATURE. means not just the out-of doors, clouds, trees, storms, the terrain
and animal life, but refers to their nature as to the nature of materials or the
nature of a plan, a sentiment, or a tool. A man or anything concerning him, from
within. Interior nature with capital N. Inherent principle.

ORGANIC. denotes in architecture not merely what may hang in a butcher
shop, get about on two feet or be cultivated in a field. The word organic refers to
entity, perhaps integral or intrinsic would therefore be a better word to use. As
originally used in architecture, organic means part-to-whole-as-whole-is-to-part.
So entity as integral is what is really meant by the word organic. INTRINSIC.

FORM AND FUNCTION ARE ONE. Form follows function. This is a much
abused slogan. Naturally form does so. But on a lower level and the term is
useful only as indicating the platform upon which architectural form rests. As the
skeleton is no finality of human form any more than grammar is the form of
poetry, just so function is to architectural form. Rattling the bones is not
architecture. Less is only more where more is no good. Form is predicated by
function but, so far as poetic imagination can go with it without destruction,
transcends it. Form follows function has become spiritually insignificant: a
stock phrase. Only when we say or write form and function are one is the
slogan significant. It is now the password for sterility. Internationally.

ROMANCE. like the word BEAUTY, refers to a quality. Reactionary use of this honorable but sentimentalized term
by critics and current writers is confusing. Organic architecture sees actuality as the intrinsic romance of human
creation or sees essential romance as actual in creation. So romance is the new reality. Creativity divines this. No
teamwork can conceive it. A committee can only receive it as a gift from the inspired individual. In the realm of
organic architecture human imagination must render the harsh language of structure into becoming humane
expressions of form instead of devising inanimate facades or rattling the bones of construction. Poetry of form is as
necessary to great architecture as foliage is to the tree, blossoms to the plant or flesh to the body. Because
sentimentality ran away with this human need and negation is now abusing it is no good reason for taking the abuse
of the thing for the thing. Until the mechanization of buildings is in the service of creative architecture and not
creative architecture in the service of mechanization we will have no great architecture.

TRADITION. may have many traditions just is TRUTH may have many truths. When we of organic architecture
speak of truth we speak of generic principle. The genus bird may fly away as flocks of infinitely differing birds of
almost unimaginable variety: all of them merely derivative. So in speaking of tradition we use the word as also a
generic term. Flocks of traditions may proceed to fly from generic tradition into unimaginable many. Perhaps none
have creative capacity because all are only derivative. Imitations of imitation destroy an original tradition. TRUTH is
a divinity in architecture.


ORNAMENT. Integral element of architecture, ornament is to architecture what efflorescence of a tree or plant is to
its structure. Of the thing, not on it. Emotional in its nature, ornament is- if well conceived-not only the poetry but is
the character of structure revealed and enhanced. If not well conceived, architecture is destroyed by ornament.]

SPIRIT. What is spirit? In the language of organic architecture the spiritual is never something descending upon
the thing from above as a kind of illumination but exists within the thing itself as its very life. Spirit grows upward from
within and outward. Spirit does not come down from above to be suspended there by skyhooks or set up on posts.
There are two uses of nearly every word or term in usual language but in organic sense any term is used in reference
to the inner not the outer substance. A word, such as nature for instance, may be used to denote a material or a
physical means to an end. Or the same word may be used with spiritual significance but in this explanation of the
use of terms in organic architecture the spiritual sense of the word is uppermost in use in every case.

THIRD DIMENSION. Contrary to popular
belief, the third dimension is not thickness but is
depth. The term third dimension is used in
organic architecture to indicate the sense of
depth which issues as of the thing not on it.
The third dimension, depth, exists as intrinsic to
the building.
Even though the horizontal
plane is the dominant
characteristic of Wrights
designs there is still a
complex arrangement of
space as demonstrated by
the 3-dimensional quality of
the faade. (Robie House)


SPACE. A new element contributed by organic architecture as style. The continual becoming: invisible fountain
from which all rhythms flow to which they must pass. Beyond time or infinity. The new reality which organic
architecture serves to employ in building. The breath of a work of art.


o the Site - an architecture where the buildings are built to complement the natural terrain

Frank Lloyd Wright said, when speaking of his home in Wisconsin, Taliesin:
And of course the countryside is Southern Wisconsin. Low hills. Protruding rock ledges. Wooded site. And
the same thing applied to Taliesin, that applied to, later on to Bear Run (Fallingwater). The site determined the
features and character of the house. Taliesin really is a stone house. And it is a house of the north. And it was built
for the north. I loved the icicles that came on the eves. And in winter, the snow would sweep up over it, and it looked
like the hill itself, or one of the I chose Taliesin as a name, it means "Shining Brow". And Taliesin is built li ke
a brow on the edge of the hill, not on top of the hill, because I believe you should never build on top of anything
directly. If you build on top of the hill, you lose the hill. If you build one on the side of the top, you have the hill and the
eminence that you desire, you see. Well, Taliesin's like that.

The terrain of the United States varies dramatically, perhaps one of the reasons Frank Lloyd Wright so loved
America. The Prairie Houses in the midwest, particularly Chicago, were built according to its flat landscape. The low
profiles and horizontal lines of these houses were exacerbated by the prairie, and vice versa. The concrete textile
block homes of the Los Angeles area are neatly tucked in to the Hollywood hills, so you know neither where the
house ends nor where the hills begin. It is an integration of architecture and nature. The most dramatic example of
this is the Bear Run house, Fallingwater. Located in the mountainous region of southwestern Pennsylvania,
Fallingwater is built not only into the side of the mountain, using materials excavated from the mountain, but
additionally over a stream and waterfall. The waterfall appears to flow out of the house. One could not replicate such
a drama filled site. When the Edgar Kaufmann's commissioned Wright to design their weekend home at Bear Run,
they wanted it near the waterfall, their favorite spot. They assumed Wright would design the house so that it was
oriented toward the waterfall. They had no idea Wright planned to build the house on top of the waterfall.


o .the Nature of Materials - how any material acts; determines how to emphasize the simplicity of

Wood is sturdy and sturdy and flexible. Glass is transparent and allows light to filter in any number of ways. Concrete
is fluid. Brick and stone are solid. If you take a piece of wood, and you carve that piece of wood, or you paint that
piece of wood, you have lost the simplicity of wood and warped its nature. But if you take a slab of wood, and you
neither paint nor carve that piece of wood, but rather relied on its natural grain texture and color, then you have
maintained the simplicity of wood. This is how
Wright worked. He never abused materials. He
allowed them to perform as they would. When
Wright built a structure of concrete, for instance,
the Unity Temple, he didn't create slabs of
concrete and stack them one on top of the other.
He poured it. Concrete before it dries is a
naturally fluid material. Concrete itself may not be
natural or organic in the sense that it came from
the earth, but the nature of concrete as a material
is to flow. In the Unity Temple, Frank Lloyd
Wright had a large, wooden cast built, and
allowed the concrete to flow into it and form
before it dried. Every feature of that building is
concrete poured on site.

Often, Frank Lloyd Wright would use natural,
local materials. If it was possible to use materials
excavated from the site, he would do it. Or use
materials found in that local region. In Frank
Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West, his desert camp,
the primary building material is what he referred
to as desert masonry. The walls of Taliesin West
are made from a collection of specially selected
stones, large and small, found strewn about the
desert floor, which he welded together with
concrete -concrete made of cement purchased in
Scottsdale, and additional sand from the
foundation of Taliesin West.


o The Physical Construction and Structure - modern materials, with the mastering of the machine,
can be held together in different ways and new interpretations of space

While buildings had traditionally been constructed with the repetition of posts and beams, Frank Lloyd Wright
expanded that constricting idea by opening up spaces. In his Prairie houses, Frank Lloyd Wright first began to do
this by expanding the windows. Instead of having gaps within windows, he positioned them as ribbons of windows,
interconnected, separated only by thin partitions. These ribbons of windows began to take up more and more wall
space, until eventually, there was no longer wall space, but rather screens of light. The elimination of walls, breaking
the box, as Wright called it, allowed for a new form of interior freedom unseen before.

In the Larkin Administration Building, 1904, Frank Lloyd Wright freed up the interior space with a massive atrium,
and a skylight from above, filling the space with natural light. In the Imperial Hotel of Tokyo, 1915-23, the
construction involved new ways of putting a building together so that a building could pull, be flexible, and as proven,
survive a massive earthquake. The Imperial Hotel's method of concrete construction, organically constructed to
respect the materials and let them perform as they are intended to, allowed it to survive an 8.3 earthquake in 1923 -
the largest Japan had until 2011. Few buildings survived the quake, but days later Wright received a telegram
stating that the Imperial Hotel survived as a testament to his genius. In his Los Angeles architecture, Frank Lloyd
Wright used his concrete textile block method. He designed hollow blocks of concrete, with geometric patterns, and
lined them up, stacked them atop one another, and joined them together with the assistance of steel rods inserted
through the hollow insides. Wright had made homes in a manner similar to creating textiles.

Traditionally house has been enclosed space, an inside, refuge for individual and family; he wanted
openness without dominance; destroyed the box and created new, general interaction between inside and out
concept of inside changed from that of a refuge to become a fixed point in space, from which man could
experience a new sense of freedom and participation; this point in space often where Wright placed great
fireplaces with vertical chimneys

When he told clients to throw away their belongings or when he cajoled them into spending far more than
they had ever intended on their houses, he was serving his vision of an ideal truth. Given his own perennial
indifference to money, one can almost imagine that he literally had trouble regarding it as real. When he
underestimated costs, he may sometimes have fooled himself as much as he did his clients, for the money
(perhaps even the client) was just a means to an end. Indeed, Wright went so far as to suggest that money
actually acquired its value by enabling his genius to create, and was as good as worthless if not pressed into
the service of some higher good. Money, he told his apprentices, becomes valuable because you can do


something with it. If you take away all the creative individuals, all the men of ideas who have projected into the
arena of our lives substantial contributions, money would not be worth anything.

Above all else, Wrights vision served beauty. When he quibbled with Sullivans dictum that form follows
function, suggesting instead that form and function are one, he was in fact revealing that when push came to
shove his own true passion was form more than function. What he admired in the Arts and Crafts movement was
its commitment to crafting all objects in such a way as to render them beautiful. What he loved about Japan was
the idea of a culture in which every human action and every human object were integrated so as to make of an
entire civilization a work of art.

In pursuit of beauty, he sought to
subordinate all elements of his
architecture to a consistent style that
would express their underlying unity. No
matter how radically his individual
buildings may differ from each other, they
all express his struggle for aesthetic
consistency, his habit of seizing a single
abstract theme and recapitulating it with
endless variations as if in a Beethoven
symphony. Consistency from first to last,
Wright declared, will give you the result
you seek and consistency alone.

The vocabulary in which he sought to
achieve this consistency was geometrical,
so that Fallingwater, to take an obvious
case, is an almost obsessive rumination
on the possibilities of the cantilever, from
the basic structure of the suspended
floors right down to the treatment of the
bookshelves. You must be consistently
grammatical, Wright said, for a building,
to be understood as a work of
Art. Geometry was the key to
grammatical consistency, which was in
turn the key to aesthetic unity, which was
in turn the key to beauty, which was in
turn the key of God.

Prairie Houses e.g. Robie House Chicago, Illinois 1906-1909


Aim was to capture endless freedom of Western frontier create an environment of freedom and repose
Been described as subtle, complex, calm, and horizontal
According to Tate & Smith, his spatial geometry reflects his structural invention; lighting reinforce space, furnishings
reiterated his linear schemes, construction materials and his every ornamental detail is integrated with his larger


UNITY TEMPLE OAK PARK 1906- 2 simple rooms linked together by entrance lobby, heavy, simple concrete walls
and flat slab roof described as having repose quality of tranquility


But consistency alone
was not enough; it was only
of value if coupled with the
new. Newness was proof
of creative genius, and
consistent newness was
the best proof of all. Just
as he tried hard not to seem
influenced by anyone elses
style, Wright had a restless
urge to keep inventing new
styles lest he start repeating
his own too often. His
boastfulness and his
competitive need to claim
priority over all other
architects were surely tied to
the horror of repetition. So
was his love affair with new
technologies, his willingness to experiment with virtually any new material that came his way so he could claim
that he, Frank Lloyd Wright, was the first architect ever to have employed it. Describing to his apprentices the
many innovations he had supposedly made in constructing the Larkin Buildingair conditioning, plate-glass
windows, integral desk furniture, suspended toilet bowls, and so onhe concluded, I was a real Leonardo da
Vinci when I built that building, everything in it was my invention.

Wrights love of new technologies was matched by a desire to use old technologies in new ways. His
fascination for the new and his need to show off his unsurpassed talents as an architectural virtuoso undoubtedly
help explain his tendency to demand so much of his materials, daring to test their limits almost to the point of
failure if it meant achieving effects he could claim as uniquely his own. Had he lived to be able to take advantage
of the newer technologies and stronger materials of our own day, he would surely have pushed them to their limits
as well. The proof he demanded of his genius was to go where no architect had ever gone before, and that meant
accepting risks that few others were willing to take. If the cost of gambling on greatness was some leaky
roofs, badly heated rooms, sagging cantilevers, and unhappy clients, then Wright was more than willing to pay
the price.