Architecture

Notables in Design and Architecture Celebrate Frank Lloyd Wright’s 150th Birthday

We invited a handful of connoisseurs to share their favorite Wright project with us.

(Photo: Courtesy Christi Britten, Florence Arts and Museums)

The Rosenbaum House, in Florence, Alabama (1940)

“The Rosenbaum House is one of the few Frank Lloyd Wright structures in the deep South. The Rosenbaum family owned movie theaters, loved to entertain, and had a progressive point of view for the time and for being in a small town in Northern Alabama. The house is actually small in comparison to other Wright structures, but the use of space and natural light is a marvel and incredibly inspiring. The home was nearly sold and demolished many years ago, but the city of Florence had the foresight to purchase the property and work with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation to grant funds to restore the home to its original condition. I notice new details in the design every time I visit or shoot there.” Billy Reid, fashion designer

(Photo courtesy Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation)

David and Gladys Wright House, in Phoenix, Arizona (1952)

“My favorite Wright house is the David and Gladys Wright House in Phoenix, Arizona. Designed in 1950 for his son and daughter-in-law, it is the residential prototype for the Guggenheim Museum in New York City completed in 1959. By organizing all functions around a spiral ramp, the house is a radical experiment in modern living that seamlessly integrates landscape, structure, and views into a single sweeping movement.” —Benjamin Aranda, principal, ArandaLasch

(Photo courtesy Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation)

Johnson Wax Headquarters, in Racine, Wisconsin (1939)

“Philip Johnson famously quipped that Frank Lloyd Wright was ‘the greatest architect of the nineteenth century.’ Looking back a hundred years later, one could confidently argue that among more than a thousand projects Wright designed, the Johnson Wax Headquarters in Wisconsin could single-handedly catapult Wright’s legacy into the 21st century and beyond. This monolithic building is a classic example of balanced contradictions, a trait that is shared among other masterpieces in history. It is both heavy and light. Its exterior is oriented horizontally and interior vertically. It uses traditional brickwork and incorporates Pyrex tubing, evoking the streamlined moderne of its time while transcending predictable decorative tropes. It demonstrates a mastery of structure, material, form, atmosphere, and light.” —Sharon Johnston, founding partner, Johnston Marklee

(Photo courtesy Frank Lloyd Wright and Wright Auction)

Buildings Plans and Designs (1963) 

“Frank Lloyd Wright was an impeccable draftsman. (It’s worth noting that he also employed John Howe, a standout architectural drawer if ever there was one.) His firm’s drawings, as much as the buildings, move me. A couple of years ago, I bought a collection of lithograph drawings, Buildings Plans and Designs, which was published by Horizon Press in 1963—just four years after his passing. Comprising 100 loose prints on heavy card stock, the collection offers a special look into Wright’s mind and work, with a wide range of plans and renderings for projects across the U.S. One of my favorites in the collection is ‘Summer Home for Mr. McCormick, Lake Forest, Illinois, circa 1915.’ Though the house was never built, I feel strongly that the drawing reveals that it’s worth celebrating Wright’s unbuilt work as much as what’s still standing today.” —Spencer Bailey, editor-in-chief, Surface

(Photo: Courtesy Western Pennsylvania Conservancy)

Fallingwater, in Fayette County, Pennsylvania (1935)

“It is the best house of the twentieth century. It is shockingly radical in its landscape, it is totally original for the time, and has been endlessly copied unsuccessfully.” —Daniel Libeskind, founder and principal architect, Studio Daniel Libeskind

“Fallingwater is a testimony to Wright’s capacity to transcend the boundaries between site and architecture—to create a work of magic. The building’s pinwheel of tactile gravity bound verticals and abstract gravity-defying horizontals, makes it impossible to discern where landscape begins and architecture ends. In our work, Michael Manfredi and I continually search to reveal the essence of a site and are inspired by the improbable felicity of this monumental and intimate masterpiece of topographic architecture.” —Marion Weiss, cofounder, Weiss/Manfredi

(Photo: Wikimedia)

Jacobs I House, in Madison, Wisconsin (1937)

“Frank Lloyd Wright designed two houses for Herbert and Katherine Jacobs; both houses are in Madison, Wisconsin. Jacobs I, as the first house is known, was built in 1937 for a mere $5,500 ($92,000 in today’s dollars). Wright was nearly seventy years old and was accustomed to working for wealthy patrons, yet he met the Jacobs’s challenge and designed a modest, low-cost home. Considered by many to be his first Usonian home, Wright saw this as a model to create a new type of residential architecture for middle-class Americans. Though Wright may have diverted some building materials from the Johnson Wax Building to save money, Jacobs I is still a testament to Wrights design capacity and ingenuity. I am interested in this spirit with which Wright approached designing Jacobs I and his confidence to overcome these financial constraints. The outcome must have been a success as the client hired Wright again when their family outgrew their first home.” —Jonathan Nescifurniture and exhibition designer

Cloverleaf Quadruple Housing Project, in Pittsfield, Massachusetts (1942)

“Although I would not consider myself a connoisseur of Frank Lloyd Wright, I’ve learned quite a bit while working on the exhibition design for ‘Living in America: Frank Lloyd Wright, Harlem, and Modern Housing’ with the Buell Center at Columbia University (opening this fall). I appreciate the innovative spirit that lead to provocative propositions for new ways of living. The Cloverleaf Housing Project, for example, is a radical design for multifamily residences. The plan is defined by a cruciform party wall that connects four homes while maintaining separate entrances and a sense of privacy. All the utilities are contained in the central shared walls, like a domestic infrastructure. It’s an experiment in technological efficiency, land-use, and collective living, which are timeless architectural issues.” —Dominic Leongfounding partner, Leong Leong

(Photo: Wikimedia)

B. Harley Bradley House, in Kankakee, Illinois (1901)

“I recently toured this incredible property and was struck by the dramatic overhanging eaves that define the house, along with the way the home and carriage house and stable are positioned on the property; the river gently bends around the site and can be seen from all the rooms. Perhaps my most favorite detail was the door designed and proportioned specifically for the owner’s one cow, a first for Wright. The other detail that was striking was the use of color in the stained-glass window—white and deep red details of abstract flowers were not the typical color pallete choices for Wright. This home was the genesis of his Prairie Style and from which all other homes drew inspiration. It’s a hidden gem few know about given it’s rural location forty-five minutes outside of Chicago.” —Felicia Ferrone, founder and designer, Fferrone Design

(Photo: Wikimedia)

The Millard House, in Pasadena, California (1923)

“The play of scale made me fall in love with the Millard House. It opens a path to new possibilities. I am fascinated by the woven blocks structure, which appear as miniature houses. They’re like a robe, dressing the house from the outside and inside. In between traditions Frank Lloyd Wright gave birth to a unique atmosphere.” —Dror Benshetrit, founder and designer, Studio Dror

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