How Frank Lloyd Wright Brought High Design to Residential Real Estate


Frank Lloyd Wright is undoubtedly one of the greatest American architects that ever lived. He was a true visionary that wasn’t afraid to push boundaries and let nature influence his designs. His work blended the latest techniques and technology with old world craftsmanship.

Among the historical autographs for sale at the Raab Collection is an interesting document from Frank Lloyd Wright. The document shows Wright’s passion for his work and his mission to share his knowledge with other young architects. It’s also a testament to his wit and offbeat charm.

At the time, Wright had no idea how far his influence would extend. Many of the apprentices that attended Taliesin, Wright’s school of architecture, went on to have successful careers and make their own mark in the architectural world. Many of those apprentices also helped in the planning and construction of some of Wright’s most famous structures.

Wright’s goal was to make high design accessible to more people. That meant designing something the common man could identify with, and nothing is more identifiable than a home. But Wright’s approach to home building was unlike anything people had seen before.

The American Institute of Architects named Wright the “greatest American architect of all time” for good reason. During his impressive 70 year career Wright designed 1,114 structures, ultimately constructing 532 of them. Of those, many were homes.

Wright developed his unique aesthetic early on in life. His father was a minister, which took the family all over the country from Wisconsin to Massachusetts. During this time Wright was exposed to a variety of environments and architectural designs. By the time he was 18 years old, Wright already knew he wanted to be an architect.

Oddly enough, Wright’s first project was his own home. At just 22 years old, the newly married Wright bought a plot of land and secured a loan to build a house for his growing family. It was nothing like the modern designs he would later become known for. Wright’s first house was similar to the shingled cottages seen on the East Coast. However, Wright did take the opportunity to play around with dimensions and did more unique, geometric designs to the additions.

Despite being under contract with another architectural company, Wright began to take commission work designing residential properties. Pretty soon he had his own company and began bringing a new perspective to home design. Wright wanted to develop truly indigenous American architecture that fit the country’s landscapes.

Wright is credited with creating the Prairie style home. The William H. Winslow House, Wright’s first independent project, was the beginning of the process. It took him 16 more years to develop the Prairie style’s signature features like the low pitched roof design, long rows of casement windows and general horizontal theme. During this period, some of Wright’s most famous early residences were built.

After this vigorous stint of residential building, Wright took an extended period of time off before delving into larger scale commercial projects. But after a decade, Wright found that he wanted to refocus on “the cause of architecture”.

He threw all of his energy into teaching young architects at Taliesin. His style of teaching was based on learning by doing. Students worked alongside Wright on numerous projects during the 1930s, some of which would become world famous. Wright also taught his apprentices to appreciate fine craftsmanship. When Frank Lloyd Wright built a home he would be involved with every detail, right down to designing furniture specifically for a house.

In addition to his school, Wright also wrote a number of books that became required reading for future generations of architects. His writings and lectures also paved the way for decentralized community development, a residential trend that would take hold a few decades later.

Most of Wright’s homes are still standing tall today. They’re sprinkled about the country from the West Coast to the East Coast. Ironically, Fallingwater, one of Wright’s most famous homes, is now a historical landmark that can be toured by the public. It’s proof that Wright accomplished his goal of making high design more accessible to more people.

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