Thinking Outside the Blueprint
His is a name that most people recognize; one that represent new
ideas and ambition. Originally his name was Frank Lincoln Wright,
but he assumed a new middle name, along with a new persona, when
his parents divorced. When he was twelve years old, he moved with
his family to Madison, Wisconsin where he attended Madison High
School. He spent many summers on the farm of an uncle in Wisconsin.
It was there that the first thought of architecture crossed his
In 1885, he left Madison without his diploma to work for the University
of Wisconsin's Engineering department. While at the University,
Wright spent two semesters studying civil engineering before moving
to Chicago in 1887.
In Chicago, he worked for an architect named Joseph Lyman Silsbee
and and a year later joined the firm of Adler and Sullivan, directly
under Louis Sullivan. Wright adopted Sullivan's maxim that "Form
Follows Function" and made it applicable to his own ideas.
Wright’s revised theory was that "Form and Function Are
One." Wright was never one to praise highly, or admit to role
models or influence, but he often mentioned Louis Sullivan as a
particularly influential person in his life.
While working for Sullivan, Wright forged a relationship with Catherine
Tobin. Predictable, when they settled down they built their own
home in which to raise their five children. In 1893, Sullivan and
Wright ended their business relationship. Wright began a new chapter
in his life by opening his own firm in Chicago, which he operated
there for five years before transferring the practice to his home.
Over the next 20 years Wright's innovative ideas continued to grow
in popularity in the United States and Europe. Eventually his unique
building style spread overseas. In 1915, Wright was commissioned
to design the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. It was during this time that
Wright began to develop and refine his architectural and sociological
Though he came from humble beginning in Richland Center, Wisconsin,
Frank Lloyd Wright evolved into one of the more prominent architects
of the early 20th century. He designed innovative structures to
express his theory that aesthetics and function should work together.
Wright's houses had a unique style, on a horizontal plane with no
basements or attics. They were built of natural materials, were
never painted, and had low pitched roofs and deep overhangs and
walls of windows, all conveying a sense of the horizontal expanse
and being in tune with the landscape. His rooms opened out to each
other and the homes were centered on their large stone or brick
fireplaces. Some of Wright’s best-known designs include the
Robie House in Chicago, Illinois; the Martin House in Buffalo, New
York; the Johnson Wax Building in Racine, Wisconsin; and the Guggenheim
Museum in New York; they are internationally recognizable icons
of innovation. He is also credited with the Art-Deco motif of the
decorative blocks of the Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix, Arizona.
Because Wright disliked the urban environment, his buildings also
developed a style quite different from other architects of the time.
He utilized natural materials, skylights and walls of windows to
embrace the natural environment. He built skyscrapers that mimicked
trees, with a central trunk and many branches projecting outward.
He proclaimed that shapes found in the environment should be not
only integrated, but should become the basis of American architecture.
According to one story, Wright had learned about shape as a child
using his building blocks as tools to create.
Not all architects agree that found environmental shapes are the
single most integral part of any design. However, the fact remains
that Frank Lloyd Wright, who invented that theory, is the most iconic
American architect today.
Lloyd Wright for Kids, by Kathleen Thorne-Thomson
and Environment, by Mary Erickson, Ph.D. and Michael Delahunt