At 25, this east coast momma knew very little of America’s greatest architect (wait for it!), or of the prairie covering America’s heartland that proved such an inspiration for the organically inspired Frank Lloyd Wright (tah-dah!).
Then again, what do any of us really know at 25?
Well, actually, at 22, Frank Lloyd Wright knew considerably more than most, particularly this flunky. Well, okay, I graduated college by the time I was 22, which is more than I can say for the master (FLW took a few courses in civil engineering at the University of Wisconsin in 1886, but never received a degree; it’s questionable the self-made man even graduated high school). I delivered my first child just weeks shy of my 23rd birthday. Then again, so did FLW. Well, actually Wright's wife Catherine did the delivering; but I digress.
My point is (yes, there is one buried beneath all the reminiscing), . . .
The bold design of Wright's modest, three-bedroom Shingle Style home with conventional gabled façade opened out in four directions from a massive central fireplace ‘to take advantage of light, air, and prospect, the enjoyable things one goes to the suburbs to secure;’ so said Wright when promoting his dream of a uniquely American style of architecture. Even the placement of his home, at the back of the lot rather than geometrically centered on the acre of land, encouraged an integration of house and land via a carefully choreographed entrance and melding of the natural surroundings.
Indeed, FLW and I share the same American dream. I just want a unique space where form can follow function; a space where site and structure, interior and exterior, furniture, ornament and architecture are all connected. Wright just knew what I wanted before I even knew what I wanted.
“To thus make a dwelling place a complete work of art . . . this is the modern American opportunity.”
This is where ‘the modern American opportunity’ began. Before there was Wisconsin’s Taliesin, Japan’s Imperial Hotel, Pennsylvania’s Fallingwater and New York’s Guggenheim Museum, there was Frank Lloyd Wright’s Oak Park Home and Studio.
You should see the library! I didn’t even know I wanted a library. Now I do!
The dynamic design (each new octagon incorporated within the space – walls, ceiling trim, skylight – was slightly rotated) created a spiraling movement upward, toward the light. How clever to place the clerestory windows high enough to eliminate any distractions for prospective clients; I was not so fortunate during all those years of teaching. Even the table legs were octagonal. This organic touch, this tendency to crystallize, was as beautiful as it was natural. The man was truly a genius. It wasn’t long before Wright’s neighbors wanted what he had. Some things never change.
More than a third of Wright’s life’s work was produced between 1898 and 1909 following the addition of Wright’s Studio to his Oak Park home.
I promise I’ll get to Wright’s home, the impetus for today’s post, but I may as well finish our tour of his Studio first.
Wright employed as many as six apprentice architects as demand for his Prairie style homes grew, including notable designers such as Lucy Mahony, Francis Barry Byrne and William Eugene Drummond, all of whom went on to establish their own measure of architectural success.
“Every idea that is a true idea has a form, and is capable of many forms. The variety of forms of which it is capable determines the value of the idea. So by way of ideas, and your mastery of them in relation to what you are doing, will come your value as an architect to your society and future. That's where you go to school. You can't get it in a university, you can't get it here, you can't get it anywhere except as you love it, love the feeling of it, desire and pursue it. And it doesn't come when you are very young, I think. I believe it comes faster with each experience, and the next is very simple, or more simple, until it becomes quite natural to you to become master of the idea you would express."
~ Frank Lloyd Wright, "Idea and Essence" September 7, 1958
Next installment - Frank Lloyd Wright's Oak Park home, the catalyst for a lifetime of achievement.