Although we spend every day living and working in buildings, few of us take the time to really appreciate their creative designs. The United States is often regarded as the leader in innovative modern architecture, but architects still lament that their work is a "forgotten" art form. But if there is one architect whose designs are recognized in America, it's Frank Lloyd Wright. His striking, open horizontal forms -- and their harmony with nature - have made Wright's homes and churches landmarks. Today, 40 years after his death, Frank Lloyd Wright is still the subject of numerous books and documentaries.
Born in Richland Center, Wisconsin in 1867, Frank Lloyd Wright worked for another legendary architect, Louis Sullivan, eventually becoming his chief draftsman. At 26, Wright started his own firm, later designing homes in what he called "prairie style" -- utilizing terraces and porches to bring the outdoors and indoors together.
Perhaps the most famous example of this merging of nature and living spaces is a Wright-designed home perched over a waterfall, known as "Fallingwater," in Pennsylvania. Wright deeply admired
Japanese art and his most important buildings outside America were in Japan, including the
Imperial Hotel in Tokyo - which has since been torn down.
Of the more than 1100 projects Frank Lloyd Wright designed during his lifetime, nearly one-third were created during the last decade of his life. He died in Phoenix, Arizona at the age of 91, but the brilliance of his designs continues to amaze us.
Frank Lloyd Wright was the inspiration for a novel The Fountainhead; he has a room in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. His works like Fallingwater, the Robie House, Johnson Wax buildings and the Guggenheim Museum in New York, drew on diverse influences and refashioned them into something rare and important in American architecture. And in the fall of 1997, three books were published on the architect.
The most extensive, Phaidon Press'
Frank Lloyd Wright, is a comprehensive monograph that investigates his career through text by Robert McCarter and 350 color and 300 b&w illustrations.
Kathryn Smith hones in on two particularly personal projects in
Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin and Taliesin West. Text focuses on the evolution of the two properties (one in Wisconsin, the other, built 25 years later, in Arizona) and on Wright's life in them. (137 illustrations, 100 in color).
Frank Lloyd Wright: The Seat of Genius, Chairs, 1895-1955, a catalogue accompanying an exhibition of the same name, 58 illustrations (21 in color) look at the diverse chairs from the oak and leather straight spindle-back chairs from Oak Park to the upholstered aluminum chairs for the Price Company tower. An essay by Penny Fowler discusses chairs in particular while another by Mary Anna Eaton describes growing up in a Wright house.
"Wright cherished the prairie of the American Midwest not only as a physical place but also as a metaphore for his vision of the American spirit -- courageous, independent, and practical," Melanie Birk states in
Frank Lloyd Wright and the Prairie. This small volume commemorates the 100th anniversry of his Oak Park, Illinois, studio, the site of "the fervent creativity" of his early work. He and his colleagues "developed a unique style tht, in its emphatic, horizontal lines and open flowing spaces, celebrated the Midwestern landscape." (50 color illustrations)
The Architect's Journal described
The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright by Neil Levine as "Scrupulously researched, elegantly written... beautifully illustrated and designed... the book is a feast for eye and mind, challenging assumptions and deepening understanding on almost every page."
The University of Illinois Press has published
Frank Lloyd Wright and Midway Gardens by Paul Kruty. Built in Chicago in 1914, Frank Lloyd Wright's Midway Gardens was a concert garden that included an indoor restaurant and dance hall, a five-tiered, outdoor summer garden with band shell, a tavern and a private club -- a work of art on the grandest scale uniting all the arts in an architecture of pleasure. Demolished in 1929, Midway Gardens is at the heart of a quintessential American tale, a great hybrid of Old and New World sensibilities, a monument to the cultural use of buildings and in its own way, to the culture that allowed its destruction.
Frank Lloyd Wright: The Masterworks
Wright has been the subject of numerous books, illustrative and historical, popular and scholarly, but David Larkin and Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer have still succeeded in creating something fresh and exciting. This handsome volume presents brand-new photographs of and lucid critical commentary on 38 of Wright's most significant buildings, including such famous public structures as the Unity Temple (1905) in Oak Park, Illinois, and New York's Guggenheim Museum (1943-59), as well as lesser-known but stunning private homes. This selection embraces Wright's entire career, from the early prairie style to the adventurous creations of the 1940s and 1950s. The process of design for each masterwork is documented from Wright's earliest conceptual sketches to his polished drawings, which are works of art in their own right. Some black-and-white photographs of buildings under construction are provided, but the book's strongest visual components are the grand color photographs. The shots were composed to capture the unique aesthetic of each structure's exterior and interior, from its orientation to the land to its elegant decorative detail and dramatic use of natural light. A liberal sampling of excerpts from Wright's writings and correspondence adds to this volume's authority and value.
Frank Lloyd Wright, the video of the Public Broadcasting System