“The good building is not one that hurts the landscape, but one which makes the landscape more beautiful than it was before the building was built.”
This month, we celebrate the 150th birth year of Frank Lloyd Wright, the man that changed the face of architecture back in the 20th Century. Having given birth to the ideology of “Prairie School”, F.L. Wright’s works flowed, curved and blended owing to the ‘organic’ poetry that ran in their veins. Wright managed to endow each of his structures with the motherly affection that has helped them stand tall against decades’ worth of architectural critique. This very affection has helped mark almost every F.L. Wright structure a National Heritage Building. Wright was a visionary and a modernist of his own league, whose material exploration and nature-inspired works are still awed upon almost entirely a century later.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
“The mother art is architecture. Without an architecture of our own, we have no soul of our civilisation.”
Amongst his greatest masterpieces, The Guggenheim Museum stands apart as a prime example of Frank Lloyd Wright’s unique vision and perspective. A first of many to come, Wright pioneered the idea of an unconventional museum that would provide visual connectivity at multiple levels. Due to its unique curved form, the Guggenheim Museum still stands out as a mesmerising exception inside New York City’s strict city grid. Visually, the user is drawn to its exterior sight due to the continual stacking of white cylinders. This was made possible through its deceivingly simple design of a rotunda that spiralled upwards towards a domed skylight which, in turn, accentuated the minimalistic white interiors.
“Nature is all of the body of God we mortals will ever see.”
F L. Wright believed that the nature that the site and its users breathed into, serves as an underlying source of inspiration for a design and must not be neglected. Robie House stands as the introductory design of the Prairie style architecture. Elements of the Robie House such as its roofs, terraces, proportions, etc. embody principles of basic design and thereby, pay a tribute to the clean and shallow nature of the Prairie River. With gently sloping roofs and sheltering overhangs acting as allies, the house is given the perfect disconnect from the bustling life outside, whilst maintaining spacious interior volumes. The minimalist yet fine brickwork, both, inside and outside, created the ideal modern home.
“All fine architectural values are human values, else not valuable.”
This being one of his first few works, F.L. Wright was bold enough to step out of architectural norms concerning religious buildings that were set in the early 90s. Using concrete, rather than stone, and discarding decorative elements, a philosophical approach was given to the Unity Temple. This meant that the focus of worship was a man, with respect to new age and modern thinking, and the design was made in accordance. Keeping in mind the location of the site, the Temple was made such that the view of the surroundings was cut off. This not only helped guard the design philosophy but also helped retain a peaceful atmosphere inside. As is the case with other F.L. Wright works, a play of light and shadows is made plausible with the provision of stained glass windows at a height, inside the voluminous and airy structure.
“Organic architecture seeks a superior sense of use and a finer sense of comfort, expressed in organic simplicity.”
F.L. Wright designed and had the Taliesin West built in Arizona to serve the purpose of a winter home, as opposed to Taliesin, which was their summer home in Wisconsin. Taliesin West also doubled up as Wright’s workshop and school for his apprentices. Wright paid homage to Arizona’s landscapes with a design that blended right into its surroundings in terms of its levels, vernacular shapes, colours and material usage. Shying away from the harsh desert sun, low heights of the scattered, but connected, spaces are provided with enough shade and ventilation. Material usage is effective as local stone and timber have been employed, along with concrete strengthening and glass shading.
SC Johnson Wax Research Tower
“Form follows function- that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.”
A later Wright addition to the firm’s existing administrative building, the SC Johnson Wax Research Tower was a complicated and challenging structure, and yet, much ahead of its times. Being the visionary that he was, Wright took up exploration of biomimetic structural systems as the base of this design. Bands of bricks and crystalline glass tubes enclosed laboratory spaces, which were primarily centred around a reinforced concrete core. The structure stands out as an exception amongst Wright’s works because his focus for designing shifted from nature to exploration of modern materials. More than half a decade later, in spite of having received mixed reviews, the SC Johnson Wax Tower is still known as an innovative architectural feat of its time.
Marin Civic Centre
“Space is a breath of art.”
The Marin Civic Centre, located in San Rafael in California, happens to be the master architect’s last commissioned project. Even with the sheer size of the project, Frank Lloyd Wright remained a force to be reckoned with since he went one step further by designing every single fixture, piece of furniture, etc. Wright’s philosophy of establishing a connection with nature is significantly brought out with the horizontality of the structures. Light is strategically streamed in through the windows and elongated central skylight. The introduction of a large blue roof, certain supportive elements and decorative gold painted elements, all, come together to push the aesthetics of the Marin Civic Centre into the spotlight without compromising on its structural stability.
Falling Water House
“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.”
The Falling Water House is inarguably one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most acclaimed and recognised works. His philosophy of blending nature with man’s living space has been displayed within every inch of this house. Stone cladding, reinforced concrete protruding terraces, horizontal lines, angular windows, etc. are just a few of the many unique elements designed by Wright himself. The focus of the house is a dramatised gathering area around a fireplace. Along with a visual connect, the interior spaces have been stacked and connected in a way that the sounds of the waterfall can be heard throughout.
About the author:
Mahika Kothawade, studying in the 2nd year of Architecture, also has a keen interest in the art of journalism. This fascination has driven her to keep an up-to-date knowledge of architecture as well as current affairs, fashion and films.