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Frank Lloyd Wright was born in Wisconsin, his father was a musician and a preacher, his mother was a teacher.
Wright spent some of his time growing up at the farm owned by his uncles.
Wright temporarily studied civil engineering after which he moved to Chicago to work for a year in the architectural firm of Silsbee.
In 1887 he hired on as a draftsman in the firm of Adler and Sullivan.
Wright eventually became the chief draftsman and also the man in charge of the firms residential designs.
He also designed houses on his own toward the end, homes Wright called “bootlegged” which were done with Adler and Sullivan’s policies concerning such moonlighting.
When Sullivan found out about these homes, Wright was fired from the firm.
Wright sets a great fireplace in stone or bricks in the centre of the house and it becomes the massive central element around which the space develops in a functional way.
The plan of these first houses often have a cruciform plan moving around a great fireplace. The Prairie houses often have a square, rectangular, T or L plan.
Wright wants a functional architecture, he isn’t interested in ornaments and he wants to exploit the inner space which must be open to the outside.
The materials used must be integrated with the surroundings, in addiction he criticizes modern American architecture mainly based on the imitation of ancient forms that have lost their topical value.
He wants to build houses that satisfy the owner’s needs with materials responding to modern exigencies and furnished with functional furniture.
The Prairie Houses were built using mass-produced materials. Wright avoided the traditional division into separate areas of dining and living, he wants a large whole ground floor so he choose large living areas with a perimeter heating below large glass areas. The fireplace was the centre of the house, he often used horizontal lines which set the home into a sense a perpetual motion and following the horizon, he seemed to connect the home to the earth.
Wright’s philosophy is divided in nine points:
1-to reduce to the necessary minimum the partition walls
2-to harmonize the building with the external environment.
This is obtained by stressing the planes parallel to the ground.
3-to eliminate the concept of rooms as separate boxes.
4-to avoid the foundation underground so the house rises on low platform made of brick or stone.
5-to give logical and human proportions to the internal and external openings.
6-to eliminate the combination of different materials and to avoid those ornaments that aren’t required by the material itself.
7-to integrate the heating and the lightening system into the building as much as possible, so that they become architectural elements.
8-to integrate furniture into organic architecture and design it in simple models.
9-to eliminate the figure of the decorator.
Wright’s aim was always a perfect ideal house, he was never satisfied and always continued to improve his buildings even when they were under construction. It’s a sort of “work in progress”.
He criticized American architecture as a poor form of decoration of the surfaces, American architects wanted to imitate the classical features of art, which wasn’t acceptable because art and architecture must be loyal and reflect the immediate present.
Wright think that machinery should be used to renew, to change and to simplify. “Being creative” means using technology to overcome the imitation of what is out of date.
Wright make an extensive use of glass because glass is a wonderful material similar to a veil of frozen air between the outside and the inside, it creates shadows and lights which can be exploited as architectural elements.
Wright think that decorations are simply useless so only simplicity is spontaneous and truthful.
Wright admires the traditional Japanese house, an example of organic simplicity, in harmony with the laws of nature.
The word organic refers to a living structure where the parts are organized, both in form and material in a way to be essential.
Furniture must be useful and simple. Wright designed chairs, lamps and furniture appropriate to his houses, usually in long and straight lines. Never mind if the new re-arrangement was put back after he had left.
Wright used to call the USA “Usonia” and he used the term to define the houses he designed in the late 30s.
Wright defined the Usonian house a home for common people. Ideally it’s situated on an acre of land with a large living room and fireplace, a convenient kitchen, indirect lighting, built-in furniture and closets. The walls are constructed of inexpensive concrete blocks, accented with mahogany trim and extensive wall of windows overlooking a naturally landscaped yard. Designed to control costs it hasn’t attic, visible roof, garage.
Fallingwater (1935-1936) is certainly the most famous example of detached hose and the architect’s greatest example of “organic architecture”, the union of structure and the land upon which it’s built.
It isn’t a very large house, quite simple in form. Wright built the terraces hanging over the waterfall while the central nucleus is firmly set on the rocks emerging on the river bank. The central core of the building is the rock which is used as the basement of the fireplace in the living room. It’s a three storey building, on the ground floor lies a wide open living room apart from an isolated kitchen. In the centre of the room it emerges the great stone, stressing the link between the house and the environment.
A special equipment to listen to music is fit on a wall near the entrance while the dining area is located.
The building is a holiday house so that it must be as simple and functional as possible.
Besides the large stone emerging in the centre of the living, the space spread outside along two large terraces where family life continues. A short flight of stairs which allows to go directly from the living to the stream, stresses the link with the outside.
The two upper floors contain the bedrooms and the most interesting element is the presence of large terraces, sometimes wider than the rooms inside.