Tireless, extraordinary and controversial. Frank Lloyd Wright, a reference in the American architecture of the 20th century, left a legacy of a thousand sketched projects that capture the concept of “nature” as its essence.
He was born in Wisconsin in 1867 and grew up with his mother Anne Lloyd-Jones. After engineering at the University of Wisconsin for three years, he moved to Chicago.At only 19 years he joined the prestigious studio of Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan, where he learned the profession that would give him fame.
Thanks to his mentor, Louis Sullivan – who will enmity at a certain point – he was able to buy a plot in Oak Park (Chicago), where he designed and built the house where he would live alongside his first wife, Catherine Lee Tobin, with whom he would have six children.
The end of young Lloyd’s friendship with his teacher led to the leap towards the opening of his own studio. And with that, the beginning of the road to an unusual vision of architecture that had so far and that translated into creations such as the Robie House, located in Chicago.
It is the maximum representation of the so-called houses of the meadow (praire style): single-family buildings in harmony with the environment and marked by horizontal lines. They also have windows that allow the sun’s rays to circulate inside and give rise to very bright rooms.
This house triggered the admiration of eminences of architecture, such as Mies Van der Rohe, although it also provoked rejection, because not everyone understood the genius of the architect. In fact, years after its construction, it was attempted to demolish, albeit without success, thanks to the refusal of neighbors and colleagues of Lloyd Wright.
More she traveled to Europe with Martha Borthwick Cheney, a client she would fall in love with and live in another of her great creations: La Taliesin house in Wisconsin.The name refers in Welsh to the concept “silver arch” and consists of a single-storey house of about 1,100 m2, characterized by the ochre color produced by yellow limestone. It was built when he returned to the United States. At that time Frank Lloyd had abandoned his family and settled in the house with his partner, who died in the first of the two fires that the house would suffer.
Another work is the Taliesin West House, a building built in the desert area of Arizona and made up of native materials such as desert rocks or cast sand. It is characterized by a roof covered with tarpaes that give it a diffused luminosity. Much of the winters will pass in it. It is now known as the central campus building of the Taliesin School of Architecture and is home to the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.The work brings together decorative elements, such as petroglyphs on the facade and the detail of the interiors, because the furniture occupied by the building is designed by the architect himself.
Frank Lloyd Wright is also known for his quest for democratic architecture and, as a result, gives us a vision of urbanism originating in the United States and designing the Usonian Houses. In fact, the term is an acronym for the United States of North America’s initials and utopia.
In its architecture it sought an ideal of free housing in tune with the identity of the country and escaping the influences inherited from European architecture. It intended that the cost of this type of construction was affordable by cancelling excessive ornamentation. Jacob I was the first model of this type of housing. It is a prefabricated plywood-based building, with an “L” and low-cost plant. This alternative, proposed for the US middle class with the goal of getting a home after the Wall Street Crash of 29, did not always meet the expected cost limitation.
At 70, after a relentless career and a host of projects on his back, the architect still kept two of the big projects that perpetuate the legacy he is attributed to him:First, Fallingwater House and, later, the Guggenheim Museum in New York.
Fallingwater house is a symbol of another element that determines how Frank Lloyd conceived architecture. Built on a fall of water in a Pennsylvania forest, it is the embodiment of organicism for mimicing its structure, color and light with the surrounding environment. The house is divided into two floors and the core is vertical and in it, the fireplace is located.
It has different terraces, is grounded on the rocks of the environment itself and the position in which it is arranged produces a feeling of suspension. This work, universally known now, although it had some detractors, skeptical before its design, is a worldwide symbol of organic architecture.
The Guggenheim Museum in New York is Frank Lloyd’s other major landmark. It opened six months after his death in 1959 and had been commissioned thanks to the recommendations of Baroness Hilla Von Rebay. Despite being the last project, it left no one indifferent and, once again, the architect generated controversy: On the one hand, his client was enthusiastic while the artistic collective of the time criticized him.This is a single space where the six floors of exhibition rooms are integrated and guided by a spiral staircase ending under the ceiling skylight. Through it, Lloyd, explores circular forms.
Lloyd Wright is recognized as a fundamental figure of American architecture and there is a BBC documentary about it that demonstrates it. Frank Lloyd Wright: The man who built America was performed in tribute to the 70-year career of the genius. The length of the film is over an hour, is free and is available on the BBC website.
On the other hand, virtual routes have been arranged through the buildings of the American creator in Instagram accounts linked to properties participating in the #WrightVirtualVisits initiative. Guided tours virtually started on April 2 and for six weeks every Thursday a new tour is incorporated. Among those that can already explore the Hollyhock House or the Taliesin West House.
The history of art opened the doors of the club and Unesco declared eight of its World Heritage projects, including those mentioned in this trip to the past. Frank Lloyd Wright was able to renew the architectural conception that reigned in the United States during the first half of the 20th century. And that became what he one day defined with these words: “Every great architect is necessarily a great poet. He must be an original interpreter of his time, of his days, of his time.”