Frank Lloyd Wright

" The greatest artist this country has ever produced seems to at last be coming into his own. America?s other great artists?our painters, sculptors, composers?don?t really rank with the tops of all time. They?re not Rembrandt or Michelangelo or Beethoven. Wright alone has that standing." (Robert Campbell)

One of America?s most influential and imaginative architects was Frank Lloyd Wright. Throughout his 70 year career, Wright has not only designed nearly a thousand structures, but he has explored the ideas of living space, landscape, and the relationship between architecture and community. Frank Lloyd Wright left behind a legacy of beautiful houses and buildings, an American style of architecture, and an example of what it means to live life based on the way things should be, not the way they are. He created some of the most monumental and intimate spaces in America. He designed everything: banks and resorts, office buildings and churches, a filling station and a synagogue, a beer garden and an art museum. Frank Lloyd Wright?s life truly was a work of art.
Wright was born on June 8, 1867, in Richland Center, Wisconsin. His early influences include his clergyman father's playing of Bach and Beethoven and his mother's gift of geometric blocks. Growing up, Wright spent much of his summers at a farm owned by his uncles; here, his favorite pastime was building forts out of hay and mud. In 1882, at the age of 15, he entered the University of Wisconsin as a special student, studying engineering because the school had no course in architecture. Wright left Madison in 1887 to work as a draftsman in Chicago. Wright worked for several architectural offices until he finally found a job with the most skillful architect of the Mid-West, Louis Sullivan, soon becoming Sullivan's chief assistant. Wright was assigned most of the firm's designing of houses, and to pay his many debts he designed for private clients in his spare time. Sullivan disapproved, and Wright set up his own office, which was located in Oak Park. Just before his twenty-second birthday, in 1889, Wright married Catherine Lee Tobin, the daughter of a wealthy businessman, and together with Sullivan as his former employer, she gave him the cultural background he lacked; she gave him social polish as well.
Now, as an independent architect, Wright became the leader of a style known as the Prairie School, which is described as houses with low-pitched roofs and extended lines that blend into the landscape. Between the year of 1903-1906, Wright began using more modern materials, such as concrete. In 1904, he designed the strong, practical Larkin building in Buffalo, New York. In 1905, Wright left the United States for the first time to travel to Japan for three months. In 1911, feeling too restricted by building primarily suburban structures, Wright began the construction of his new home and studio, located on his uncle?s Wisconsin farm, called Taliesin (Welsh for ?shining brow?). "No house should ever be on a hill or on anything. It should be of the hill. Belonging to it. Hill and house should live together each the happier for the other." (Frank Lloyd Wright, pg.96) In 1909, the first phase of Wright?s career ended sadly, when he left his lover, Mamah Borthwick Chaney, the wife of a former client, and his five children alone at Taliesin. That day, a crazed servant murdered Mrs. Chaney and six others, also setting a fire that destroyed much of Taliesin. This incident caused a setback in his career for a short period of time. In 1916, Wright traveled back to Japan where he would spend much of the next six years. He designed the Imperial Hotel, in Tokyo, floating the structure on an underlying sea of mud. Frank Lloyd Wright returned to the United States in 1922, he was in his mid-50?s, and facing one of the most difficult times in his life. Having long been separated from his first wife, Catherine Lee Tobin, Wright divorced her in 1922; the following year, he would enter into a brief, disastrous marriage with Miriam Noel. Meanwhile, he found himself with little work and few clients. In 1923, he suffered the death of his mother, and in 1924, the death of his former employer and mentor, Louis Sullivan died, and Miriam left him. In the years between the separation and the final divorce, her behavior became increasingly erratic and