In 1991, the American Institute of Architecture (AIA) named Frank Lloyd Wright the greatest architect who ever lived. This honor reflected his masterful skill in design but also his overall philosophy that architecture needs to nourish people, blend into the environment, and be democratic — available for everyone to enjoy.
Wright was born in Richland Center, Wisconsin, on June 8, 1867. His mother, Anna Lloyd Jones, was a teacher, and his father, William Carey Wright, was a musician, composer, and preacher. Anna hung engravings of old English cathedrals in his nursery, already harboring a wish that he would become a builder. The boy fell in love with the Wisconsin landscape, later recalling "the modeling of the hills, the weaving and fabric that clings to them, the look of it all in tender green or covered with snow or in full glow of summer that bursts into the glorious blaze of autumn."
After two terms at the University of Wisconsin, Wright left for Chicago in quest of work as an architect. The prestigious firm of Adler and Sullivan hired him, and after six years, he left and started his own office. He moved away from European models, when possible eliminating basements, attics, and any unnecessary interior partitions, creating free flowing spaces with walls of art glass.
Over a creative career that spanned 70 years, Wright designed more than 1,100 homes, skyscrapers, churches, offices, and many other buildings, striving for what he called "organic architecture," buildings and furniture integrated into a seamless whole with the environment. The crowning example was Fallingwater, a house in southwestern Pennsylvania that's built partly over a waterfall. It headed an AIA list of favorite buildings of the 20th century, but three other Wright structures were also included: the Robie House, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Johnson Wax Administration Building.
Wright was also a Japanese art dealer, a community planner, an interior designer, a writer, and an educator. He created the “Taliesin Fellowship,” a comprehensive apprenticeship program that trained people not only in architecture and construction, but also in agriculture, cooking, dance, art, and more.
In 1953, Wright appraised his own work in this way: "I know well that my buildings see clearly not only the color, drift and inclination of my own day, but feed its spirit. All of them seek to provide forms adequate to integrate and harmonize our new materials, tools and shapes with the democratic life-ideal of my own day and time. Thus do I know work that is for all time.”
To Name This Day . . .
Choose one of these quotes by Frank Lloyd Wright as inspiration for your day, and ask yourself how it informs your own creative ventures:
"Nature is all the body of God we mortals will ever see."
— Quoted in The Duality of Vision by Walter Sorrell
"No house should ever be on a hill or on anything. It should be of the hill. Belonging to it. Hill and house should live together each the happier for the other."
— in Frank Lloyd Wright: An Autobiography
"Early in life I had to choose between honest arrogance and hypocritical humility. I chose honest arrogance and have seen no occasion to change."
— Quoted in The World's Best Thoughts on Life & Living, compiled by Eugene Raudsepp
"The physician can bury his mistakes, but the architect can only advise his clients to plant vines."
— New York Times Magazine (October 4, 1953)
"Every great architect is — necessarily — a great poet. He must be a great original interpreter of his time, his day, his age."
— in The Future of Architecture
In A Living Architecture by John Rattenbury, Wright is quoted as saying, "Human beings can be beautiful. If they are not beautiful it is entirely their own fault. It is what they do to themselves that makes them ugly. The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes. If you foolishly ignore beauty, you will soon find yourself without it. Your life will be impoverished. But if you invest in beauty, it will remain with you all the days of your life."
Reflect on three ways you can invest in beauty, and take steps today to follow through with at least one of them.