The field of architecture has had numerous contributions from outstanding individuals. Each of these individuals has come up with an original and highly creative means of designing and constructing buildings. Several contributions have revolutionized the industry. These contributions have been recognized and some were awarded such honors as the Pritzker Architecture Award. Some of the renowned architectural minds who have made significant contributions include Philip Johnson, James Stirling, Zaha Hadid, Toyo Ito, Luis Barragan, and Frank Lloyd Wright. This research paper will focus on the contributions made by Frank Lloyd Wright in architecture. The architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright is marked by the richness of conception, unity of expression and fertility of the invention that acknowledges the fundamental laws of design while drawing strength and inspiration form a profound respect for American traditions, landscapes and native materials. Despite the fact that he was a designer of houses, commercial buildings as well as churches in a variety of styles, Frank Lloyd Wright is widely noted for the Prairie Style of design. This style is unique and dates back to 1893 and the WWI. This style of design appears to embody Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural ideas and philosophies. It is how unique this style is that Wright gained international fame and recognition (Alofsin, 1999). He was able to achieve this feat at a tender age of forty.
According to Neil Levine (1996), the architect Louis Sullivan is acknowledged as a key mentor of Wright and a promoter of the Prairie School. The two closely worked together before Wright was able to open his own studio and develop much of his own work. The other members of the architectural group associated with the prairie style of architecture are Myron Hunt, Dwight Perkins, and Robert Spencer.
These architects worked majorly for the upper and middle class clients located in suburban Chicago. Their work is considered as a deviation from the conventional strategies of design.
Most of Wright’ designs are inspired heavily by nature. It is believed that this appreciation for nature was acquired during the summer times he spent at his uncle’s Wisconsin farm. It was at the farm that he was able to observe and admire the land’s horizontal lines. It is these same lines that Wright believed to be the base of democracy, domesticity as well as freedom. It is from this basis that Wright formed the core principle of his designs that they should signify quality and comfort, especially in houses (Wright, Scully and Salmaggi, 2009). It is to this end that Frank Lloyd Wright’s prairie style of houses features large fireplaces that are centrally placed hearths, which are used to ‘ground’ the house and become its epicenter upon which the house is focused. He also made it a habit to design benches on both sides of the house. For instance, the Westcott house located in Springfield, Ohio, is a good example. This design appeared to create a room within another room.
Apart from having a distinctive design, Wright made use of basic construction materials for the Prairie style buildings. He made use of such materials as stucco, brick and wood. Despite the fact that he later deviated from the philosophy of the Art and Craft movement by approving and occasionally using machines for construction, most of his work made remarkably little use of engineering innovations. Apart from steering away from engineering innovations for construction, Wright’s houses were also void of ornamentation apart from houses constructed using leaded glass (Storrer, William and Wright, 2002). In order to substitute for such deficits, Lloyd made use of shapes and forms that were juxtaposed. For instance, he made windows in horizontal bars. A good example is depicted in the Westcott House. In keeping in touch with his love for nature, Wright strongly believed that houses and any other buildings constructed must correlate with the landscape surrounding it. Essentially, he made his buildings sync and blend with the setting in which they were built. It is this objective that led to the utilization of indigenous Midwest construction materials. The woodwork on the exterior was normally left unpainted an unplanned. However, it was stained. The interior woodwork was waxed and stained.
Another key distinguishing feature of the Prairie style is the use of open spaces both within the interior and exterior. As a result, a number of rooms in each building were reduced in comparison to previous architectural designs. However, the upper hand of such a design was that it added flexibility to design and construction. Considering the Westcott house, the design eliminates the need for several rooms each with their own purpose. Rather than that, the house has a single main room that occupies space of nearly sixty square feet. It is in this big room that different parts could be used for different functions. For instance, one area would be used for dining purposes, another as the library and another portion used as the living room. This means that the house’s interior spaces moved from the traditional enclosure and portioning system. According to Wright, this design provided a building with a sense of multi-purpose. Therefore, the building appeared to be more relaxed and larger than conventional buildings. To emphasize his belief in open spaces, Lloyd avoided normal wall partitions at all costs (Wright and McCarter, 2005). In the event that he was required to partition a house, he made use of screens as well as piers but never used wall.
The use of this unified technique of design meant that Lloyd intended to have house furnishings also included in the entire house’s design plan. He came up with chair designs that had slat backs, fixtures that were light, window glass, china as well as rugs. He did all this with the aim of attaining artistic harmony. Generally, he was able to come up with furniture sets that were extremely lighter than those designed under the Arts and Craft movement. Each set, however, was unique and specific to each building he designed. Each building created under the Prairie School projected a sense of purpose and optimism through its simplicity and honesty. It is in this light that Wright develops his philosophy and objectivity of design. He was determined to create an artistic work that is self-expressive and that blends with the nature around it and that fully meets the dwellers’ needs.
The objectives and goals that Wright focused on are clearly articulated in the characteristics of his buildings. The Unity temple that was constructed between 1905 and 1908 is one of Wright’s major designs. The building has concrete walls that are exposed. These walls are constructed in a manner that depicts geometric units that are in series and appear independent of each other while interpenetrating each other from the horizontal and vertical axes. This building emphasizes Wright’s correlation between nature and his works (Aguar and Aguar, 2002).
The 1908-1910 Robbie House is also a building designed by Wright that exemplifies one of his philosophies. The building captures Wright’s ‘Prairie’ houses design. The houses in the prairie were meant to have a horizontality that complemented the expansive and flat landscape of the Illinois prairie. The abstract masses as well as the planes that shifted captured European modernists’ attention. The building is constructed using Roman brick that is red-orange. The building rises up three levels to meet roofs that are low-hipped and covered with a layer of red tiles of clay.
The Hollyhock House was constructed between 1919 and 1921. This building clearly demonstrates Wright’s technique of coming up with architectural designs well suited for a Southern California neighborhood. The building is designed in such a way that the interior and exterior spaces of living meld seamlessly through each room’s terrace and have a circulation pattern that is highly intricate. The house, which is set on a base that is concrete-cast, has walls that are canted of terracotta tiles that are hollow and stucco covered. They rise in a manner that looks monolithic. Ornamentation of the house is in the form of hollyhocks that are stylized and placed on belt courses. On the other hand, masonry walls were stucco covered and extended out from the main ground floor room and further ahead to enclose all the terraces. In classical Wright style, the building’s furniture was designed to match. All the main rooms had doors and windows with exquisite geometrically shaped patterns of art glass.
The concept of integrating and uniting nature and design is also conceptualized by Wright in his own home and studio, in the 1911, Taliesin. The house is intricately designed to suit its hillside setting. It forms a fundamental part of the estate locate in rural Wisconsin, which is host to several other Wright designs. The building is designed to match with the roads, ponds as well as the landscaped grounds which form part of the general setting and composition. The building’s exterior comprises Wisconsin chimneys that form limestone. Additionally, it has walls that alternate with stucco-finished off with sand and placed on a frame made of wood.
Furthermore, the house has base trim boards with cypress fascia with a roof that is shingled with cedar. Additionally, the walls are plastered to have the sand texture. Linking the buildings are passageways that are made of stone but covered.
The Fallingwater House constructed between 1936 and 1938 is one of the most memorable works done by Frank Lloyd Wright. The house was designed so that it had floor slabs made of concrete that cantilevered across a minor waterfall. This house is majorly famed for its intimate connection to its surrounding including the roughly set stone walls. Each of the house’s three levels is well articulated by a terrace that is highly spacious, and it includes a massive chimney made from anchors of native sandstone. Additionally, the floor of the interior spaces integrates native sandstones and furniture built into the house. It has a cabinetry curved out a black walnut. In order to come up with a sense of contrast between openness and light, the house has windows made of steel and glass casements, which open into each of the three terraces flanking the chimney (Legler, Dixie and Christian, 1999).
In conclusion, Frank Lloyd Philip left an indelible mark in the field of architecture not only in America but throughout the entire world. Despite the fact that other architects of the Prairie School soon surpassed and overshadowed Lloyd after the year 1909, his prairie style of design still lives. Many architects draw inspiration from the simplicity and tenacity of his designs. The ability to incorporate unsophisticated construction materials to come up with intricate designs is a technique that many architects still try to master. Wright’s ability to fuse a building and make it one with the setting sets his designs apart from that of his contemporaries. His designs, construction approach and technique will be forever remembered as a part of architectural history.