The enduring legacy of American architect Frank Lloyd Wright has been recognised by UNESCO
Though he developed a unique style in response to the American Midwest landscape, Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie School designs changed architecture on a global scale during the first half of the 20th century.
His global significance is reflected in a collection of eight buildings added to the UNESCO World Heritage List that the citation says offered "new solutions to the needs for housing, worship, work, education and leisure". They include Fallingwater (Mill Run, Pennsylvania), the Herbert and Katherine Jacobs House (Madison, Wisconsin) and the Guggenheim Museum (New York).Wright was deemed "the greatest American architect of all time" by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 1991, even though the sometimes-abrasive personality distained other architects and refused to join the AIA. He left university after two semesters without a degree – though he later had many honorary degrees conferred on him – and started work as an apprentice draughtsman in Chicago before becoming a designer. He set up his own practice in 1893 and under the influence of the English arts and crafts movement, and in reaction to the beaux arts style, evolved what later became known as the Prairie School, an attempt to create a unique American style of architecture with long, low lines that evoked the treeless Western expanses. Flat or hipped roofs with broad shadowing eaves emphasised the horizontal aspects along with extended bands of windows. Artisanal craftsmanship was highly valued, especially in the internal detailing. For many of his houses Wright designed the furniture, rugs, wallpaper, lighting fixtures, textiles and accessories.
Wright was deemed "the greatest American architect of all time" by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 1991
Wright claimed to design "organically" with the interior spaces and functions – open plan, free-flowing spaces, often on different levels – determining the exterior form. "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," the UNESCO citation states.The buildings are in city, suburban, forest, and desert environments and while they represent a substantial range of function, scale and settings, they underscore the consistency and the wide applicability of Wright's design principles.
Although developed for an American context, Wright's buildings were suited to modern life in many countries and evoked universal appeal. "Wright's solutions would go on to influence architecture and design throughout the world, and continue to do so to this day," says the citation. In 1911, a monograph by Wright with highly detailed drawings was published in Germany and is said to have influenced Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Walter Gropius.
In Asia, Wright designed the rebuild of the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, largely destroyed in a 1923 earthquake soon after it opened. The reassembled main entrance hall and lobby, and surviving elements can be seen at the Meiji-Mura architecture museum near Nagoya. The Frank Lloyd Wright Archives are maintained at Taliesin West (pictured below), Wright's home and studio in the Arizona desert.Photos. Portrait: The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York). Solomon R Guggenheim Museum: David Heald Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. Fallingwater: Christopher Little courtesy of Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. Taliesin West: Andrew Pielage, copyright Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation