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What Was Frank Lloyd Wright Idea

What Was Frank Lloyd Wright idea of organic architecture and what has its legacy been?

Following a previous research about humans controlling nature through gardening design, the subject of nature takes another step, and the following research describe the relationship between the building and the environment surrounding it. The dissertation will guide the reader into the philosophy of ‘organic’ architecture’, coined by the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Frank Lloyd Wright was born on June 8, 1867, in Wisconsin. His origins of the creative attention to details starts from his early life, when his mother, Anna Lloyd Jones, introduced him to the architecture world. She discovered the Froebel blocks, teaching tools for Friedrich Froebel’s Kindergarten education program. They were simple geometrical shapes which made Wright familiar with geometry, spatial relationship, and systems in a critical way, teaching him the basic forms of nature in two and three dimensions.

From nature and the Froebel\’s gifts, grew Wright\’s ability to export from a simple block natural forms, training him on transforming a simple flower to a natural geometric shape, and later on, this exercise became the sources of plans, elevations, and decorative arts. Wright’s childhood played an important role for his life, was the period of time where he got in touch with rhythm, pattern and with the colours of nature. But wasn’t only architecture and shapes his only inspiration, through his mother he learned how to analyse the work of naturalist writers of the time, such as Emerson, Blake and Whittier, which encouraged him to find wisdom in the natural world.

In 1887, Wright moved to Chicago and a year later began an apprenticeship as a draftsman with Louis Sullivan, an American architect considered the “father of skyscrapers.” Frank Lloyd Wright was stimulated by Sullivan’s motto “ form follows function”, which explains that ,the shape of a building, should be primarily base upon its function or advantage. This motto had a profound influence on Wright and encouraged him to carry to complete Sullivan’s dream of defining a uniquely American style of architecture. On the practical point of view, Sullivan taught him about the ornament, rather than apply the ornament to the design, he believed the best option was to create an ornament that is integral to the building itself.

Louis Sullivan became Wright’s mentor, and together, they discussed about the Prairie style, an American style that works on straight lines and open floor plans.

The concept of the open floor plan was an architectural design that makes use of large and open spaces, with an aspiration to create a natural flow and with the aim to drive occupants out of rooms , boxes, and into shared spaces, like the Prairie houses. The Prairie houses are buildings characterised by low, horizontal lines , meant to blend with the flat landscape surrounding it.

For a few years, Wright designed a series of residences and public buildings that became noted as the case of Prairie School of architecture, which is represented by single story homes with low, pitched roofs and long windows, with local materials and wood. One of the most famous Prairie school buildings includes the Robie House in Chicago and the Unity Temple in Oak Park.

Frank Lloyd Wright intentions were to design different spaces, different buildings, intended to fit the commitment of each individual client and , more important, the features of each site.

The only “style” involved was how well a building was designed to serve its purpose, Wright stated that “ as humanity develops, there will be less recourse to the style and more style”(Wright Style

By Carla Lind)

Around the 1890s, Wright’s visited the Japan’s pavilion at the sprawling world fair, in Chicago. From that time he began on having a keen interest in Japanese prints, from their deep representation of the connection with nature and geometry, which was critical for him because he felt that the Japanese culture was very much in tune with nature, understood nature and most important , working with it.

“At last I had found one country on earth where simplicity, like nature, is supreme,” ( Autobiography)

This interest in Japan’s art developed following several trips there in 1905 following few years of residence working on the design of the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. Of the several projects he designed for Japan, The Imperial Hotel was his most famous Japanese project. The hotel determines the key to understanding Wright’s admiration for Japanese principles of art as well as his interpretation of the Japanese spatial organisation.

Wright itself claimed that the hotel, was not intended to be a uniquely Japanese building, but one that paid tribute to Japanese cultures.

Frank Lloyd Wright “borrowed the landscape” on his design, using windows and doorways like picture frames, inspired by the Japanese concept call shakkei. Thus his keen interest with geometric shapes is in keeping with the rectangular straw tatami mat, the base of Japan\’s traditional architecture.

In one of his interviews, Frank Lloyd Wright expressed his connection with nature through these words:

“The most important place for an architect to study construction, first of all, is the study of nature. In Nature, you will find everything exemplified, from the glass to the tree the study, of Nature, with a capital N standing as inner Nature, Nature of the hands.” ( Frank Lloyd Wright Interview)

His intention was not the copy nature itself, but to get inspiration from it. Being able to appreciate the central principles and elements, for example, the relation between nature and building and the focussing of the transition from the outside to the inside.

On his way back from Japan, Wrigth brought with him hundreds of ukiyo-e, woodblock prints, which combines his love of nature and the simplicity of geometry. Wright aim was to sell the paintings to his clients to hang on the walls he had built, to explain that they complete his streamlined interiors.

“A Japanese artist grasps form always by reaching underneath for its geometry, never losing sight of its spiritual efficacy,” he wrote in “The Japanese Print,”

Frank Lloyd Wright embraced into his architecture the philosophy of “organic.” This idea of Organic architecture had the most significant characteristics to bring together space, blending the interior with the exterior and create a connection with the building and the site.

“By organic architecture, I mean an architecture that develops from within outward in harmony with the conditions of its being as distinguished from one that is applied from without.”

Frank Lloyd Wright, from “In the Cause of Architecture: Second Paper.” (Architectural Record, May 1914).

The critical part of his work is represented by simplicity, harmony, and integrity. He got rid of the boxlike spaces, changing the ideology of the house type of the common architecture.

The first important characteristic of Wright’s idea of organic architecture was to create a corresponding and harmonic relation between the designs and the surrounding environments, where it uses form and function are completely autonomous of style. However, Frank Lloyd Wright established the term ‘organic’ architecture to describe his approach to building, explaining how for him the buildings where seen as organisms.

Although the word “organic” in common usage it’s referred to something which has the typical features of animals or plants, Wright’s organic idea brings on a special meaning. His style was not a substitution of nature; he did not design forms which were shown as examples of nature, but alternatively, he shows a re-understanding of nature’s principles as they seeped through the intelligent mind of people who could then design forms more natural than nature itself.

In 1908 Wright published an essay called “ the architectural record” in which he established four areas that set up an abiding language rules for his work.

On this article, he implied that was worth to limit the number of rooms and spaces. The only part of the structure to be seen on his designs were the openings. Each home was designed to express the owner’s personality and be unique, and also, the ideology of Wright’s building needed to appear to grow easily from its site.

Wright’s philosophy of ‘organic’ also involves the sense for the properties of the materials and the relationship between the form and the function of the building.In ‘organic\’ architecture, the site is as valuable as the building, and one can not be thought-out without the other.

His Organic philosophy in architecture had the ability to demonstrate to the world that ,form and function, could both be accomplished to design a house reliable to nature and also inexpensive.

In fact, the houses designed with a prairie style do reflect the whole area horizontally, wherein Wright opinion was “ the line of response, tranquillity, and domesticity.”

Beyond the aesthetic insight on its buildings, it is understood that ,the important aspect of Wright\’s designing technique is to place the problem of space as a key issue of his work. Every building can be schematically disassembled in : the internal space, the volume, which is the box walls enclosing emptiness, and finally the decorative parties.

As a case of his designing philosophy, Wright designed homes around trees, with the use of sun power to warm up the interior areas, and providing a changing design of light and shadow. Wright design approach was appealing because he acquired nature’s devices to provide the line of the horizon, creating a habitat like a natural cave.

In 1936, the American Institute of Architects has voted one of Wright’s building as one of the most significant building of the last century; this building is Fallingwater.

Fallingwater also called Kaufmann house, has been designed in 1935 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

At the time, Frank Lloyd Wright, on the visits to the site, admired the nature of the surrounding, the vegetation of the bottom level and the upper level, seeking in this an astounding opportunity for architecture, demonstrating that he was not working only with nature, was designing an entity that becomes part of it.

“The sense of space, nothing is more important, and that is the meaning of the new architecture. Space within that is the new thought that we call organic architecture.” The falls, including the play of the movement and the noise, was appreciated by Frank Lloyd Wright, which helped him to be the focus of the activity. His decision was to design the house directly above the waterfall.
Later on, Louis D. Astorino an architecture student , was commissioned by his architectural firm to make the first precise drawings of the house.
There were existing plans from Wright, but before Astorino’s drawings, there were no accurate technical drawings that proved how exactly the finish tiles matched his intentions.
Astorino made clear that the site, with the waterfall, was a beautiful area, and a natural habit. In comparison with any ordinary architect idea, was to site the house looking at the waterfall. However, that was not a good solution for Wright because he felt that any solution had to deal with two characteristics: the design has to have an aesthetic function, but also has to work efficiently.

In addition to Sullivan’s motto “Form follows function”, Wright got to the point that “ Form and function are one” and his best way to explain that was by putting the house on top of the waterfall, giving a unique way to look at it and to get the sunset from every room.

In 1936 the plans were completed, some of the engineers were extremely dubious about the viability of the structure and also the possibility of placing such a heavy element directly on the piece of rock that it was meant to go on.
There were questions about how to construct the foundations, as it was a complication for the element of water. Thus Wright decided to design and build a foundation called cantilever. Thanks to that the structure was more stable, and Wright used that four times for the construction of Fallingwater ,becoming the primary support system for the entire house.

Frank Lloyd Wright had designed the house based on four main materials: Stone, which was a material present on the site, Concrete, which represent a very organic material, Steel, mainly shown on the reinforcing of the concrete and also on the framing of the windows, and the last element was glass.

“ every high building has an excellent idea behind it, and if you are studying architecture, you will remember and get the symbols of the buildings, like in falling water, giving the idea of a wedding between various ideas, emotions, materials.”

Falling water was design with a particular function. It was a vacation house for people who lived in the city, with the aim of getting a life balance. It was not just a home, but mainly was an aspect of life, offering direct relations in nature. One of the best way to represent this connection between occupants and the outside site was in the living room space.The windows designed in the living room were built as strips of river windows, and they look out at the hill site. The view from it is the bottom of the hill, and the skyline is not visible.

The only visible element is a panoramic view of plants, with a relationship to nature that gives a particular clarity by the framing of the windows. This element provides a constant rhythm by the separation of that frame in regular spaces, so in this case, the nature of the site is seen as natural with a human scale.( Coffman)

“Contrasts that appealed to Wright can be seen at Fallingwater, where at night light plays against dark, glass against the stone, horizontal against vertical, elegance against simplicity.” ( Christopher Little)

Every detail of the design of Fallingwater embellished Wright’s vision of organic design; the floors and ceiling expand individually, and finally the windows connects at the corners of rooms, opening to wear away the very notion of containment.

Wright’s design shows a connection between the interior space of the house with the outdoors, to create this visual connection between the interior space and the site.

Wright was also a teacher, around late 1920, he established a school of architecture called Taliesin, in which apprentices from all over the world went and studied his philosophy, which helped them to get an inspiration towards his new idea of architecture.

Hendrik Petrus Berlage was Wright most important supporter, which was diffusing Wright’s ideas through Dutch architects in the 1910s. Berlage was also really interested in Wright’s way of designing and went to visit several of Wright’s building. On his way back to Europe, Berlage gave lectures in Zurich about American architecture in which Wrights Larking Company Administration Building and the Darwin Martin House figured without any doubt.
These lectures aroused, automatically, the interest of young Europeans, establishing a critically eminent “Dutch Connection” between Wright and Holland, sensitising Swiss architects and engineers to Wright ideas.

After Wright’s death in 1959 his reputation took one of its cyclical dips, but around the 1980s Wright became a subject of interest again, not only in the scholarly part of his life and work but also in the virtual industry of picture books.

His furniture, art glass windows and some four hundred buildings that remain had firmly increased in commercial value.The diffusion of Wright’s ideas into American architecture comprised what was thought-out to be his influence. Influence, however, commonly contributes to three central processes: imitation, transformation, and parallelism. Imitation is seen as copying the idea, usually having confidence on the external characteristics of objects. The transformation suggests an effort to move further making copies to adjust either appearance and finally, parallelism takes place when objects that seem similar have liberated origins.

Frank Lloyd Wright career shows how important was to design practical houses, a design that is comfortable, sustainable and energy-efficient.

In Japan today, there is repercussion from Wright’s residential innovation in the buildings designed by such architects as Kazuyo Sejima and Kengo Kuma. They, like Wright, are praised for their careful siting that takes into deep consideration the climate and environmental effect. Therefore, Wright\’s ideas shown in his work continue to be a source of inspiration for many architects across Japan.

“Wright always thought of nature in a practical, not an abstract, way,” Kuma says. “When Wright uses natural materials, they become alive, studying Wright’s buildings is a superb opportunity for us to learn the texture of reality.”

From the beginning of the 20th century through to the present day, the connection between the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and the Japanese architecture has been closed-source of analysis. One of the principal factors in holding up this interest has been the fact that, while Wright widely recognised serious, reflective arrears to Japanese art and the wood block prints, he consistently denied suggestions that, Japanese architecture, had an immediate impact on his work. Previous opinions about the kind of influence that Japan had on Wright range from Henry-Russell Hitchcock\’s stated that Japanese woodblock prints, not Japanese architecture, were Wright\’s primary influence.\"Resemblances are mistaken for influ­ences,\" he wrote, explaining that Japanese design helped as an expression of his principles instead of an example of his work.

Frank Lloyd Wright is the perfect example of \’bringing the building to life,\’ because his structural act of adaptation express the emotions, joys, and hopes of the people, demonstrating how the idea of combining architecture with nature has a positive result for the history of the design.

Freelance Writer

I’m a freelance writer with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Boston University. My work has been featured in publications like the L.A. Times, U.S. News and World Report, Farther Finance, Teen Vogue, Grammarly, The Startup, Mashable, Insider, Forbes, Writer (formerly Qordoba), MarketWatch, CNBC, and USA Today, among others.