Frank Lloyd Wright
Born in Richland Center, Wisconsin, on June 8, 1867, Frank Lloyd Wright was the son of William Cary Wright, a preacher and musician, and Anna Lloyd Jones, a teacher. Along with his two sisters Jane and Maginel, Wright and his parents traveled around quite a bit. In addition to Wisconsin, the family lived in Rhode Island, Iowa and Massachusetts.
By the time Wright was eleven, they had settled in Madison where his father was a Pastor at the Unitarian Church. Around that time he began spending summers with his uncle, James Lloyd Jones, on a farm near the Taliesin hill. That time of his life had a profound impact on Wright. He later wrote in his autobiography: "As a boy, I learned to know the ground plan of the region in every line and feature. For me now its elevation is 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. I still feel myself as much a part of it as the trees and birds and bees are, and the red barns."
In 1885, Wright’s parents divorced and Wright never saw his father again. To help support the family, he began working for Allan Conover, Dean of the Department of Engineering at the University of Wisconsin. In addition to working, Wright spent two semesters studying civil engineering and assisted architect Joseph Lyman Silsbee draft and supervise the construction of Unity Chapel.
Around 1886/87, Wright left for Chicago where he continued to work for Silsbee. In 1888 however, he accepted a drafting position from the firm of Adler and Sullivan. During the six years he was there, Wright worked directly under Louis Sullivan - one of the few architects Wright ever acknowledged as an influence in his architecture. In 1893, when Sullivan discovered that Wright had been accepting commissions for house designs on his own, they parted company quickly, only to return to friendship a short time later.
When Wright was twenty-two, he married Catherine Tobin and built a home in Oak Park, a suburb of Chicago. Soon after, Wright established his own practice and added a studio to his house for working. Wright had six children by Catherine: Lloyd, John, Catherine, David, Frances and Llewellyn.
Wright’s first notable piece from his own practice was the Winslow House built in 1896 in River Forest, Illinois. This early project clearly portrayed Wright’s preference for open space, a concept he helped make common. Wright’s architectural belief was that architecture should be a link between man and his environment. Eventually, he began to call his work "Organic Architecture." Some of his more notable examples of this were his numerous "Prairie Houses." Even though Wright disliked the term, he became the leader of a movement known as "Prairie School."
One of Wright’s best qualities was that he was an innovator. He tried things people had never done before. Some example of these are the Unity Temple of Oak Park, the first important American poured concrete building; his Prairie Houses and the Millard House, which used textile blocks.
After leaving his family in 1909 and going on a trip to Europe, Wright published many very influential works through Ernst Wasmuth. Upon returning to America, he began building his home, Taliesin; near Spring Green, Wisconsin, the home of his mother’s family. While he was away on a business trip, an insane servant set fire to the living quarters of the house, killing many people including his close friend and her children, Mamah Cheney.
In 1928, Wright married Olga Lazovish and founded an architectural apprenticeship program called "Taliesin Fellowship." The program kept Wright busy. He and his apprentices designed many buildings: Fallingwater, the Johnson Wax Administration Building and a new style of home called "Usonian." They were moderate-cost, single-story houses with innovations such as pre-fabricated walls and radiant heating.
During his last decade , Wright was probably the most productive. Nearly a third of his projects were created during the last ten years of his life. Besides his many building plans, he also wrote several books. Two of the last projects Wright worked on were the Guggenheim Museum and Grady Gammage Auditorium. Both were completed after his death; April 9, 1959 in Phoenix, Arizona.
"Frank Lloyd Wright had an astounding capacity for self-renewal and was tireless in his efforts to create an architecture that was truly American. Through his work, his writings, and the hundreds of apprentice architects that trained by his side, his ideas have been spread throughout the world."
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