BOSTON — If architecture is frozen music as Goethe once said, Frank Lloyd Wright was the Mozart of design. Some say he was the greatest architect who ever lived. The most influential figure in modern architecture, Wright believed in organic architecture where buildings were integrated into their natural environment.
Wright was born in Richland Center, Wis., in 1867. When he was a boy, his mother gave him blocks and other small objects. With her help, he arranged these into basic furniture and buildings. He believed this play deeply affected his architecture.
He went on to study engineering at the University of Wisconsin at Madison but did not like the common- place architecture around him. He soon started architectural work for Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan. But while there, he designed "bootlegged" houses for Sullivan's clients without the firm knowing. He eventually struck out on his own and developed the movement know as the "Prairie school" of architecture. Prairie architects eschewed compartmentalization for comfort, convenience, and spaciousness. Wright's houses had low rooflines, and were centered on massive fireplaces in the center of the house.
In 1909, complications in his personal life started affecting his ability to attract clients. He turned to writing books instead. Japan soon took notice of Wright. He was hired to design the Imperial Palace in Tokyo (1915-1922), one of his most important works.
When the economy bounced back after the stock market crash of 1929, Wright was in high demand.
His creations reflected his deep affection for the natural world. He believed the structural principles in nature should guide modern American architecture.
One of the best examples of Wright's commitment to nature is "Fallingwater" (1936), a cantilevered house that he designed over a waterfall in Mill Run, Pa.
"No house should ever be on any hill or on anything. It should be of the hill, belonging to it, so hill and house could live together each the happier for the other."
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society