The 20th-Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright

 United States of America
N39 54 20.055 W79 27 59.312
Date of Inscription: 2019
Criteria: (ii)
Property : 25.723 ha
Buffer zone: 710.103 ha
Ref: 1496rev
Travelogue/News Links: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA; 

The property consists of eight buildings in the United States designed by the architect during the first half of the 20th century. These include Fallingwater (Mill Run, Pennsylvania), the Herbert and Katherine Jacobs House (Madison, Wisconsin) and the Guggenheim Museum (New York). These buildings reflect the ‘organic architecture’ developed by Wright, which includes an open plan, a blurring of the boundaries between exterior and interior and the unprecedented use of materials such as steel and concrete. Each of these buildings offers innovative solutions to the needs for housing, worship, work or leisure. Wright’s work from this period had a strong impact on the development of modern architecture in Europe.

The 20th-Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright focusses upon the influence that the work of this architect had, not only in his country, the United States of America, but more importantly, on architecture of the 20th century and upon the recognized masters of the Modern Movement in architecture in Europe. The qualities of what is known as ‘Organic Architecture’ developed by Wright, including the open plan, the blurring between exterior and interior, the new uses of materials and technologies and the explicit responses to the suburban and natural settings of the various buildings, have been acknowledged as pivotal in the development of modern architectural design in the 20th century.

The property includes a series of eight buildings designed and built over the first half of the 20th century; each component has specific characteristics, representing new solutions to the needs for housing, worship, work, education and leisure. The diversity of functions, scale and setting of the components of the series fully illustrate the architectural principles of “organic architecture”.

The buildings employ geometric abstraction and spatial manipulation as a response to functional and emotional needs and are based literally or figuratively on nature’s forms and principles. In adapting inspirations from global cultures, they break free of traditional forms and facilitate modern life. Wright’s solutions would go on to influence architecture and design throughout the world, and continue to do so to this day.

The components of the series include houses both grand and modest (including the consummate example of a “Prairie” house and the prototype “Usonian” house); a place of worship; a museum; and complexes of the architect’s own homes with studio and education facilities. These buildings are located variously in city, suburban, forest, and desert environments. The substantial range of function, scale, and setting in the series underscores both the consistency and the wide applicability of those principles. Each has been specifically recognized for its individual influence, which also contributes uniquely to the elaboration of this original architectural language.

Such features related to innovation are subordinated to designs that integrate form, materials, technology, furnishings, and setting into a unified whole. Each building is uniquely fitted to the needs of its owner and its function and, though designed by the same architect, each has a very different character and appearance, reflecting a deep respect and appreciation for the individual and the particular. Together, these buildings illustrate the full range of this architectural language, which is a singular contribution to global architecture in spatial, formal, material, and technological terms.

The Outstanding Universal Value of the serial property is conveyed through attributes such as spatial continuity expressed through the open plan and blurred transitions between interior and exterior spaces; dynamic forms that employ innovative structural methods and an inventive use of new materials and technologies; design inspired by nature’s forms and principles; integral relationship with nature; primacy of the individual and individualized expression and transforming inspirations from other places and cultures.

Criterion (ii): The 20th-Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright demonstrates an important interchange in the discourse that changed architecture on a global scale during the first half of the 20th century. The eight components illustrate different aspects of Wright’s new approach to architecture consciously developed for an American context; the resulting buildings, however, were in fact suited to modern life in many countries, and in their fusion of spirit and form they evoked emotional responses that were universal in their appeal. Reacting against prevailing styles in the United States, this approach took advantage of new materials and technologies, but was also inspired by principles of the natural world and was nurtured by other cultures and eras. These innovative ideas and the resulting unified architectural works were noted in European architectural and critical circles early in the century and influenced several of the trends and architects of the European Modern Movement in architecture. Wright’s influence is also noticeable in the work of some architects in Latin America, Australia and Japan.

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2 replies »

  1. My first visit to a Frank Lloyd Wright site was to Taliesin West in 2011, that’s when I first experienced what it meant to see and feel Wright’s architecture. I immediately connected to his use of blending his buildings with the environment that surrounds them. Wright says, “Hill and house should live together, each the happier for the other,” and that is apparent at the first sight of this architecture. I think being raised in the outdoors really created a special bond and connection with the desert landscape and seeing Wright architecture at Taliesin West doing the same thing is what really got me hooked on his designs and organic philosophy.

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  2. Having been many times to the Guggenheim, the best part seems to be building, an incredible testament to the imagination of Frank Lloyd Wright. There is a hidden little display though, in the Cafe, that shows the construction of the building itself, outlining the history of the design, and highlighting the ingenuity of the construction workers to actually get the thing standing upright. This should be moved out-front and celebrated. I would go again, just to walk up the long winding ramp, and marvel at the building.

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