Frank Lloyd Wright Homes

Wright is considered by most authorities to be the 20th century’s greatest architect.  Indeed, the American Institute of Architects in a recent national survey, recognized Frank Lloyd Wright to be “the greatest American architect of all time.”  “Architectural Record” magazine (the official magazine of the American Institute of Architects) declared that Wright’s buildings stand out among the most significant architectural works during the last 100 years in the world.
To get a perspective on Wright’s long and productive life, it is useful to remember that he was born in 1867, just two years after the end of the Civil War and died in 1959, two years after the launching of the first satellite Sputnik.
No other architect so intuitively designed to human scale.  No other architecture took greater advantage of setting and environment.  No other architect glorified the sense of “shelter” as did Frank Lloyd Wright.  “A building is not just a place to be.  It is a way to be,” he said. Wright’s work has stood the test of time.  His buildings are still relevant to today’s values.  People have moved and found new jobs just to own a Wright house.  Grass-roots efforts have developed to preserve his work.
In 1970, there were only two Wright homes open to the public.  Today there are more than twenty, which together attract more than one million visitors a year.  More than one-third of Wright buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places or are in a National Historic District.*
Frank Lloyd Wright Styles

  • Prairie Style
  • Usonian Style
  • Hemicycle Design
  • Organic Design


Frank Lloyd Wright revolutionized the American home when he began to design houses with low horizontal lines and open interior spaces.  Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie Style houses were low and compact.
1893-1920: Prairie Style
A Revolutionary New House Style by Frank Lloyd Wright
Frank Lloyd Wright transformed the American home when he began to design “Prairie” style houses with low horizontal lines and open interior spaces
Prairie style houses usually have these features:

  • Low-pitched roof
  • Overhanging eaves
  • Horizontal lines
  • Central chimney
  • Open floor plan
  • Clerestory windows

About the Prairie Style:
Frank Lloyd Wright believed that rooms in Victorian era homes were boxed-in and confining. He began to design houses with low horizontal lines and open interior spaces. Rooms were often divided by leaded glass panels. Furniture was either built-in or specially designed. These homes were called prairie style after Wright’s 1901 Ladies Home Journal plan titled, “A Home in a Prairie Town.” Prairie houses were designed to blend in with the flat, prairie landscape.
The first Prairie houses were usually plaster with wood trim or sided with horizontal board and batten. Later Prairie homes used concrete block. Prairie homes can have many shapes: Square, L-shaped, T-shaped, Y-shaped, and even pinwheel-shaped.
Many other architects designed Prairie homes and the style was popularized by pattern books. The popular American Foursquare style, sometimes called the Prairie Box, shared many features with the Prairie style.
In 1936, during the USA depression, Frank Lloyd Wright developed a simplified version of Prairie architecture called Usonian. Wright believed these stripped-down houses represented the democratic ideals of the United States.
Famous Prairie Houses by Frank Lloyd Wright

  • 1893: William Winslow Residence: River Forest, Illinois. Although this house uses ornamentation in the fashion of Louis Sullivan, it also shows elements of the new Prairie style. The house is a symmetrical rectangle.
  • 1901: Frank W. Thomas House: Oak Park, Illinois. Widely considered Wright’s first Prairie Style house in Oak Park, and one of his earliest uses of stucco.
  • 1902: Arthur Heurtley House: Oak Park, Illinois. This low, compact house has variegated brickwork with vibrant color and rough texture.
  • 1909: Robie Residence: Chicago. This is widely considered Wright’s finest example of the Prairie style.

 What Is a Usonian?
In 1936, when the United States was in the depths of an economic depression, American architect Frank Lloyd Wright developed a series of homes he called Usonian. Designed to control costs, Wright’s Usonian houses had no attics, no basements, and little ornamentation.
The word Usonia is an abbreviation for United States of North America. Frank Lloyd Wright aspired to create a democratic, distinctly American style that was affordable for the “common people.”
Usonian architecture grew out of Frank Lloyd Wright’s earlier Prairie style homes. Both styles featured low roofs and open living areas. Both styles made abundant use of brick, wood, and other natural material. However, Wright’s Usonian homes were small, one-story structures set on concrete slabs with piping for radiant heat beneath. The kitchens were incorporated into the living areas. Open car ports took the place of garages.
In the 1950s, when he was in his ’80s, Frank Lloyd Wright first used the term Usonian Automatic to describe a Usonian style house made of inexpensive concrete blocks. The three-inch-thick modular blocks could be assembled in a variety of ways and secured with steel rods and grout. Frank Lloyd Wright hoped that home buyers would save money by building their own Usonian Automatic houses. But assembling the modular parts proved complicated – most buyers hired pros to construct their Usonian houses.
Despite Frank Lloyd Wright’s aspirations toward simplicity and economy, Usonian houses often exceeded budgeted costs.
Frank Lloyd Wright built more than a hundred Usonian houses. A few of the most famous Usonian houses are:

What is a Hemicycle?

Photo © the homeowner. Reprinted with permission

The Curtis Meyer Residence by Frank Lloyd Wright is an example of hemicycle design
A hemicyle is a half-circle. In architecture, a hemicycle is a wall, building, or architectural feature that forms a the shape of a half circle.
In medieval architecture, a hemicycle is a semicircular formation of columns around the choir section of a church or cathedral. The word hemicycle can also describe a horseshoe arrangement of seating in a stadium, theater, or meeting hall.

What Is Organic Architecture?

© 2009 The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona / Guggenheim Museum Exhibition

Taliesin West in Arizona expresses Frank Lloyd Wright’s theories of Organic Architecture
Organic Architecture is a term Frank Lloyd Wright used to describe his approach to architectural design. The philosophy grew from the ideas of Frank Lloyd Wright’s mentor, Louis Sullivan, who believed that “form follows function.” Wright argued that “form and function are one.”
Organic architecture strives to integrate space into a unified whole. Frank Lloyd Wright was not concerned with architectural style, because he believed that every building should grow naturally from its environment.
Modernist Approaches to Organic Design:
In the later half of the twentieth century, Modernist architects took the concept of organic architecture to new heights. By using new forms of concrete and cantilever trusses, architects could create swooping arches without visible beams or pillars.
Modern organic buildings are never linear or rigidly geometric. Instead, wavy lines and curved shapes suggest natural forms.

Biography Excerpt Source:

Jeff Shapiro
Jeffrey "Jeff" Shapiro
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