When it comes to architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright is deemed as one of the most influential and revered architects of all times. A “Tour de Force” of American architecture and pioneer of the Prairie architecture style, Wright’s Fallingwater has adorned various coffee table books and is considered as one of the most beautiful residential projects ever. Wright’s creative period spanned over 70 odd years and he designed over 1000 structures which projects ranging from offices, schools, churches, museums and other structures. A firm believer in harmony and co-existence with the environment, his philosophy of design set trends as organic architecture. His colorful personal life made equal headlines as his buildings and he was always wrapped in controversy. His disdain for the policies precedent by the American Institute of Architects and his turbulent marriages always kept in the limelight of the media of his times. Even though, many are familiar with his prairie style, organic architecture philosophy, falling water, Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, here are some not so known facts about the architect.
1. He was a college dropout: Contrary to popular belief, Wright studied civil engineering at University of Wisconsin- Madison and dropped out without taking a degree, he was later granted an honorary doctorate of fine arts form the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1955. He initially worked as a draftsman for Joseph Lyman Silsbee, where he was not satisfied with the work that was designed at the studio and he in his aspiration for more progressive work he found himself interviewing as an official apprentice at Adler & Sullivan and worked directly Louis Sullivan, who is well known as his major source of inspiration and mentor.
2. He was prepaid for his contract at Adler & Sullivan: Wright had decided to buy a land in Oak park to build the house where he lived with his first wife, Catherine. Wright had Sullivan offer him a 5-year contract and a $5000 prepayment so that he can build his house.
3. Feud between mentor and apprentice: Wright envisioned Sullivan as his close teacher, aide and mentor but Sullivan fired Wright after he learning about the Wright taking personal work in secret.
4. First Commissioned House:H Winslow was a wrought iron ornament maker, whose decorations were used by Sullivan in his buildings was the first person to commission Wright to design a house. The Winslow House was the first in a series of houses that defined Wright’s organic style.
5. High profile clientele: Among his clientele included the American Icon, Marilyn Monroe and controversial writer, Arthur Miller.
6. Auto Aficionado: Wright was always intrigued by the internal combustion engine and was prophetic in understanding how the car would transform the American landscape and his designs frequently reflects his understanding. He worked extensively on his yellow Model K Stoddard Dayton roadster and even had gas pumps installed at his house and his studio at Oak Park, Illinois. When the Wescott House in Springfield, Ohio was being designed and constructed, cars were unable to reverse, so Wright incorporated a turntable similar to those found in train yards that would turn the car around upon exiting the garage.Even one of his final projects, Solomon R Guggenheim Museum was built like a spiral automobile ramp.
7. Eccentric design ideas: Wright had an affirmation to prints and patterns, which was evident with his Textile Concrete Block System and his frequent trips to Japan to acquire Japanese prints. One can also help but notice use of art glass in most of his works. Frank Lloyd Wright once suggested that the Falling Water have concrete surfaces coated in gold leaf. He also proposed red marble for the facade of New York City’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. He said, “Red is the color of Creation.” He also wanted a glass elevator in the building. Equally eccentric were his clientele including the Fabyan Villa in Geneva, Illinois estate which included a Japanese garden, private zoo, Roman-style swimming pool, lighthouse, country club, quarry, farm gardens, grottoes, greenhouses and an amphitheatre.
8. He was a detail-oriented perfectionist: He always strived for perfection and made sure the patterns match between the interior and exterior and the design element was recurring for example, The palmer house in Ann Arbor, Michigan had hexagon shaped beds and flooring with equilateral triangle patterns to match with the equilateral triangles and yet in another example, the Hollyhock House library contains historically appropriate books.
9. He spent his last days in a hotel suite: Even he owned the famous Taliesin Estate and the Taliesin west winter home, he spent his final years living in the suite at the Hotel Plaza in New York, from where he supervised the construction of the Guggenheim.
10. Mainstream Media Influence: The protagonist of the critically acclaimed novel, The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright. His Holly Hock House in Los Angeles was the inspiration behind the fictional Vandamm residence at Mount Rushmore in the 1959 Alfred Hitchcock film North by Northwest.