Guest Author - Carol Taller
Frank Lloyd Wright was born in Richland Center, Wisconsin on June 8, 1867 and is considered one of the greatest American architects. His father was a preacher and musician named William Cary Wright, and his mother was a teacher named Anna Lloyd Jones.
Wright had two sisters and his family moved often; he lived in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Iowa and Wisconsin. For his most influential years, from ages 11 – 20, Wright lived in Madison, Wisconsin. In his autobiography, he claimed the mountainside, elevation, trees, and nature surrounding him had a large effect on him.
His parents divorced in 1885, and Wright took a job working for Allan Conover, a dean of the University of Wisconsin’s department of engineering. He spent two semesters at that school studying civil engineering.
By 1887 Wright moved to Chicago and took a drafting job working for Adler and Sullivan. He worked there for six years, until Sullivan learned that Wright had been accepting private jobs, which was against their original agreement.
Sullivan was one of the few people that Wright accredits as being an influence on his work, and referred to him as “Lieber Meister”, or beloved master. Sullivan was known for using natural themes, and believed “form follows function”. Wright later changed this thought to “form and function are one”.
When Wright was 22 he married Catherine Tobin and built a home in Oak Park, a suburb of Chicago. They had six children together.
By 1893 he opened his own architectural firm, and after adding space to his Oak Park home he moved his business to his home. This space is now officially known as the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio.
Wright’s design used expansive, open proportions. His architecture connected man with environment. He called his work “organic architecture”. His most famous designs from his early years were called Prairie Houses. The houses were long and low and blended with the land that they were built on. He used natural materials, preferring stained wood over paint to emphasize the wood’s natural beauty.
In 1910 Wright left his home and practice and took off to Europe with Mamah Borthwick Cheney, the wife of a client. While in Europe he worked on two different portfolios that brought him additional fame.
When he returned to the US in 1911 he build a home in Taliesin, Wisconsin. In 1914 while Wright was away on business, a servant set the house on fire and killed Mamah and two of her children. Despite the tragedy, Wright rebuilt the house. Soon after the house disaster he met and married sculptress Miriam Noel. There was another fire in the house in 1925 that was triggered by lightening. Again, Wright chose to rebuild the house.
In 1928 Wright married for the fourth time to Olga Lazovich, the daughter of the Chief Justice of Montenegro. During the Depression, with few architectural assignments coming his way, he and his wife formed a school called “Taliesin Fellowship”.
In 1957 many new commissions came in for design of commercial and public buildings. Prior to this, most of his work had been residential.
Wright worked on over 1100 projects in his lifetime and died at the age of 91.