You can find a glimpse of important influences in the early life of artists. This is the case for the architect Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959). Richard Lloyd-Jones was the Unitarian “firebrand” preacher and grandfather of the architect. Frank was the son of another preacher, William Wright, and Anna Lloyd-Jones.
In the “The Journal of American Culture” (Sept. 2009), Ingrid Steffensen notes religious influences developed young Frank’s poetic side. In the autobiography published in the Depression period, Wright described himself in the third person:
“As a listening ear, a seeing eye, and a sensitive touch had been given naturally to him, his spirit was now becoming familiar with this marvelous book-of-books, experience, the only known reading—The Book of Creation.”
A genius in design and the architect of his public image, Wright was born during Reconstruction in Richland Center, Wisconsin. He became the most influential architect of modern history. In the late 19th century, Wright left the supervision of Louis Sullivan to design homes for Midwestern clients. His trademark became the “Prairie Style” home, duplicated in many locations around the U.S. with decidedly non-prairie landscapes. Many homes are preserved in the Oak Park district of Chicago, also notable as the birthplace of Ernest Hemingway.
Oak Park also includes another Wright achievement – the Unity Temple. He designed this commission at age 38. In 1971, the U.S. Department of the Interior designated this temple as a National Historic Landmark. It is currently undergoing an extensive restoration.
A man with a distinct vision of building design, Wright believed the inside of a building was most important. “The building is no longer a block of building material dealt with, artistically, from the outside. The room within is the great fact about building-the room to be expressed in the exterior as space enclosed.” His world-famous home design, Fallingwater, challenges the idea of indoor and outdoor space. Fallingwater was built into the face of a cliff near Pittsburgh.
Wright also designed large buildings that have not survived in the 21st century, including the Larkin Office Building in Buffalo, New York, and the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, Japan.
In celebration of its 50th anniversary, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum worked with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation to celebrate Wright’s achievements. The 2009 exhibit was called “Frank Lloyd Wright –From Within Outward.” The Guggenheim is an exquisite piece of Modernism – an ascending spiral he lovingly completed during the last decade and a half of his life. In 1959, six months after his death at age 92, the Guggenheim opened on Fifth Avenue in New York City.
Wright architecture is preserved by his self-created institution – the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. This organization maintains his former residence, Taliesen, in Wisconsin, and Taliesen West in Arizona. Wright also leaves the important legacy of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, which awards bachelor’s and master’s degrees.