Frank Lloyd Wright - Creativity and Architecture
Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959)
American architect (pictured right).
Famous for his revolutionary ideas like:
- the use of steel, reinforced concrete and plate glass.
His buildings include...
The Imperial Hotel in Tokyo (sadly demolished in 1968).
The headquarters of Johnson Wax (pictured right), makers of cleaning products like Mr.
Why was he so creative?
He followed his dream of the world he wanted to create, represented by his ideal community of Broadacre
City, unfortunately never built.
It was to be a network of homes, parks, schools, businesses, pollution free industries, farms and roads.
It wasn’t a modern city, which he attacked as “a parasite of the
- hated the idea of caging people in cheap, small boxes.
- wanted everyone, rich and poor, to be as happy as possible with beautiful
houses and enough land for a vegetable garden.
- believed that education should make people more alive to everything, particularly
He believed a great building should do three things:
a) serve mankind (including his customers)
This was his most important aim.
He wanted to appeal to all Americans with a distinctly American style without any European
His Imperial Hotel in Tokyo:
- successfully combined Eastern and Western designs.
- was made earthquake-proof.
b) belong to the era in which it was built
So his buildings were modern (like New York's Guggenheim Museum, pictured
c) respect for the environment
He saw himself as a child of nature, totally dedicated to preserving its
He broke with all the architectural traditions of the past including classicism, based on Roman
and ancient Greek architecture.
He said that an architect should:
- have a “cultivated, enriched heart”.
- “strive continually to simplify”.
For example, his Prairie style houses were incredibly popular, first built in the early
- were low level, low cost and open plan homes.
- had the hearth (the family meeting place) as its focal point.
Pictured right is Robie House in Chicago, the most famous
4. Continuous improvement
He kept on developing new architectural styles.
“What we did yesterday, we won’t do today” was his motto.
- was never a slave of old ideas (even if he invented them).
- constantly sought new and better ones.
5. Order in chaos
He was never entirely satisfied with his work and made constant changes until it was
Once he removed a couple’s wall when they were having a barbecue party!
But he made sure there was order in this continual chaos of change by insisting that all
work be directed towards achieving his design objectives.
6. Ambition, self-confidence and determination
In 1930 he said he wanted to be the greatest architect ever.
He was helped in this ambition by his:
(his enormous, often arrogant, belief in his own ability).
He overcame big difficulties:
- the painful divorce of his parents (pictured right above) and two divorces
of his own.
- a fire at his home (during which his partner, Mamah Borthwick, pictured
right, was murdered).
- money problems in the 1920’s and 30’s.
He learned from other great architects, particularly Louis Sullivan, pictured
right (1856-1924), for whom he worked in Chicago.
Sullivan taught him to:
- design buildings that were truly American.
- apply Sullivan’s motto: “form follows function” (i.e. a building must, first of all,
carry out its purpose or function).
But Lloyd Wright didn’t ignore form (i.e. aesthetic needs like style and beauty) unlike other architects such as
the Frenchman Le Corbusier, pictured right, (1887-1965), who said that houses were
simply “machines for living”.
As a boy Lloyd Wright also learned from
- working on his uncle’s farm in Wisconsin (learning many practical skills).
- his mother (his biggest influence, always encouraging and supporting him).
- his father, a minister (who inspired his feelings of beauty).
For example, in church, Frank experienced the wonder of beautiful music.
8. Philosophy and risk taking
All his buildings were based on Lao
Tzu’s (pictured right) principle:
“the reality of the vessel was the void within it”.
In other words, open spaces are just as important as the buildings themselves.
His Welsh grandparents brought from Wales the motto, which also greatly influenced him:
“Truth against the world”.
He stood up for what he believed was beautiful architecture, even if it meant hardship and
For example, in 1893 he left a secure job with Louis Sullivan and started his own business.
Key quotes on architecture and
Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.
A building is not just a place to be. It is a way to be.
Space is the breath of art.
The architect must be a prophet...If he can’t see at least ten years ahead, don’t call him an architect.
The physician can bury his mistakes, but the architect can only advise his client to plant vines.
Key quote on
An idea is salvation by imagination.