- Although architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed more than 1,000 structures throughout his career, some stand out more than the rest.
- His two most famous designs are Fallingwater, a private house in Pennsylvania, and the Guggenheim Museum in New York City.
- Wright also created a few houses for himself to live in, including Taliesin in Wisconsin and Taliesin West in Arizona.
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Frank Lloyd Wright is America’s most celebrated architect – and for good reason.
Over the course of his seven-decade career, he designed more than 1,000 structures and 532 were actually built. He created private homes, public buildings, museums, and office spaces. With each new structure, Wright showcased a style that was uniquely his own and revolutionised the architectural world.
From the Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles to Tokyo, Japan, here are some of Wright’s most iconic buildings.
Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio was built in 1889 in Chicago and is considered one of his earliest masterpieces.
Wright built the home with a $US5,000 loan he got through his employer, Louis Sullivan, a well-known architect at the time. The house in Oak Wood, Chicago, acted as Wright’s main residence and studio where he started his famous style, the Prairie School.
Although the house wasn’t in the Prairie School style, it foreshadowed what was to come. Wright designed the home to be the opposite of the Victorian houses that surrounded it. In fact, he placed the windows so that they block the view of the Victorian houses on the block.
Over the next few years, he developed his Prairie School style, which is best seen in his 1910 structure, the Robie House in Chicago.
The Robie House, which was designed for entrepreneur and bicycle maker Frederick C. Robie, is a quintessential example of Wright’s Prairie School style, as the building’s horizontal lines mimic the flat plains of the prairies. The house, which is now open for tours, also includes the style’s signature modernist features like flat, overhanging roofs and horizontal windows.
Built in 1905, the Unity Temple in Chicago is another prime example of Wright’s signature style.
Throughout his career, Wright designed many public buildings, but the Unity Temple in Chicago is one of his earliest and considered one of his greatest. The simple, modern building was meant to symbolise the church’s principles of “unity, truth, beauty, simplicity, freedom, and reason.”
Most notably, the building was made entirely of concrete to adhere to the church’s budget of $US45,000.
After a brief stint in Europe, Wright returned to the US and built one of his most famous homes in 1911: Taliesin.
In the early 1900s, he returned to the state he grew up in, Wisconsin, to build his new home. It became known as Taliesin, which means “shining brow” in Welsh. The house sat on an 800-acre estate and also included a studio and architecture school. The house itself had 524 windows and no gutters so that icicles would form during the winter months.
In 1914, a family servant burned down the house and murdered Wright’s lover and her two children. Wright, who had been away at the time of the killings, rebuilt the house, but it burned down again, prompting the architect to build a third time. The house that stands today is known as Taliesin III and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In 1915, Wright was commissioned to build his largest and most impressive building to date: Imperial Hotel in Tokyo.
It took seven years for Wright to finish his masterpiece in Tokyo, Japan. Opened in 1923, the Imperial Hotel had implemented the Mayan Revival style, which gave the exterior of the building a pyramid-like look. The building was made mostly out of concrete, brick, and volcanic rock. In front of the building, there was a reflecting pool and a courtyard.
The hotel survived the Great Kantō Earthquake in 1923. In fact, it was the only building to remain standing after the disaster. But it was officially demolished a few decades later in 1968.
In the ’20s, Wright built several notable private homes like the Hollyhock House in 1921.
In 1921, the Hollyhock House was the first home Wright built in Los Angeles, and it was for an oil heiress named Aline Barnsdall. The house sits on 36 acres in Hollywood and is considered the first structure to usher in the California Modernism style. Even though the house was named after Barnsdall’s favourite flower, she never actually moved into the home.
The house is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Built in the 1920s, the Storer House is another famous private home Wright designed.
The Storer House is another example of Wright using ancient Mayan influences. The private house was built in the Hollywood Hills and made to look like ruins on a cliff. The house is made of concrete blocks that have four unique patterns.
It remains a private residence today.
In the 1930s, Wright built his most famous private residence, Fallingwater, in Pennsylvania.
Wright designed this home near Pittsburgh in 1935 for Edgar J. Kaufmann, Sr., a department store owner, as a weekend family home. The house is known for its melding of nature and art, as the house is built over a waterfall. Made of sandstone and materials found on the land, the house is also notable for its criss-crossing balconies.
Today, Fallingwater is a museum and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A few years later, Wright built a winter home for himself in Arizona and called it Taliesin West.
When Taliesin West opened in 1937 in Scottsdale, the house was branded Wright’s most personal structure, since he took care of most of the upkeep. The 80,000-square-foot site was designed to resemble and complement the desert that surrounds the property.
The home became the location for the Lloyd Wright Foundation and the School of Architecture at Taliesin. It has also become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Toward the end of the ’30s, Wright worked on a large project known as the Johnson Wax Headquarters.
Wright designed this building in Racine, Wisconsin, for the SC Johnson Company as a state-of-the-art office space. Although open offices are common today, Wright’s open-floor concept was revolutionary at the time. With high ceilings, mushroom-shaped columns, and funky designs, this building caught a lot of people’s attention.
At the time, Wright told LIFE that the headquarters were “designed to be an inspiring a place to work in as any cathedral was designed to worship in.”
The complex – which you can tour today – also includes a tower, which is one of the only times Wright built a vertical structure.
In 1946, Wright began working on the Unitarian Meeting House in Wisconsin, making it one of the most innovative pieces of religious architecture.
The Unitarian Meeting House opened in 1951 and is known for its large, triangular roof. The building also features many of Wright’s signature techniques. For example, he used materials that could be found around the location of the building, including limestone and copper. Inside the building, there is an auditorium, a social area, and a kitchen.
The building is still in use today.
In 1952, Wright built his first and only skyscraper, Price Tower, which reaches 19 floors.
As someone who often found inspiration in nature, Wright designed Price Tower in Oklahoma to resemble a tree. He said the centre of the building acted as a tree trunk while the unique design of each floor acted as the tree’s branches. Throughout the building, you can find copper that resembles leaves.
The building today now has a museum and a bar, while the top floors are a hotel.
Among his later projects was the unmistakable Guggenheim Museum in New York City.
In 1943, Wright began work on the Guggenheim Museum – a project that would last 16 years. In this design, he broke away from his usual sharp, horizontal lines. Instead, the building’s focal point is a round structure that resembles a ribbon folded on top of itself. Inside, there is a spiral staircase that starts on the ground floor and ends all the way at top of the circular structure.
The building was designed to blend the world of architecture and art, earning its name “archeseum.” But not everyone viewed this new design favourably. Some worried the buildings looked like a washing machine or a toilet bowl. Others thought the architecture would outshine the art that it held inside.
Just six months before the opening, Wright died. But the Guggenheim is now considered one of the best pieces of architecture in New York City.
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