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Frank Lloyd Wright was a modern architect who developed an organic and distinctly American style. He designed numerous iconic buildings.
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That same year he founded the Taliesin Fellowship, an immersive architectural school based out of his own home and studio. Five years later, he and his apprentices began work on "Taliesin West," a residence and studio in Arizona that housed the Taliesin Fellowship during the winter months.
By the mid-1930s, approaching 70 years of age, Wright appeared to have peacefully retired to running his Taliesin Fellowship. Then, in 1935, he suddenly burst back onto the public stage to design many of the greatest buildings of his life. Wright announced his return to the profession in dramatic fashion in 1935 with Fallingwater, a residence for Pittsburgh's acclaimed Kaufmann family. Shockingly original and astonishingly beautiful, Fallingwater is marked by a series of cantilevered balconies and terraces constructed atop a waterfall in rural southwestern Pennsylvania. It remains one of Wright's most celebrated works, a national landmark that is widely considered one of the most beautiful homes ever built. Then in the late 1930s, Wright constructed about 60 middle-income homes known as "Usonian Houses." The aesthetic precursor to the modern "ranch house," these sparse yet elegant houses employed several revolutionary design features such as solar heating, natural cooling and "carports" for automobile storage.
During his later years, Wright also turned increasingly to designing public buildings in addition to private homes. He designed the famous SC Johnson Wax Administration Building that opened in Racine, Wisconsin, in 1939. In 1938, Wright put forth a stunning design for the Monona Terrace Civic Center overlooking Lake Monona in Madison, Wisconsin, but he failed to secure public funding for the project. In 1992, 33 years after the architect's death, the state finally approved funding for the building's construction, which was completed in 1997, nearly 60 years after Wright finished his designs.
In 1943, Wright began a project that consumed the last 16 years of his life—designing the Guggenheim Museum of modern and contemporary art in New York City. "For the first time art will be seen as if through an open window, and, of all places, in New York. It astounds me," Wright said upon receiving the commission. An enormous white cylindrical building spiraling upward into a Plexiglass dome, the museum consists of a single gallery along a ramp that coils up from the ground floor. While Lloyd's design was highly controversial at the time, it is now revered as one of New York City's finest buildings.
Frank Lloyd Wright passed away on April 9, 1959, at the age 91, six months before the Guggenheim opened its doors. Wright is widely considered the greatest architect of the 20th century, and the greatest American architect of all time. He perfected a distinctly American style of architecture that emphasized simplicity and natural beauty in contrast to the elaborate and ornate architecture that had prevailed in Europe. With seemingly superhuman energy and persistence, Wright designed more than 1,100 buildings during his lifetime, nearly one third of which he designed during his last decade. The historian Robert Twombly wrote of Wright, "His surge of creativity after two decades of frustration was one of the most dramatic resuscitations in American art history, made more impressive by the fact that Wright was seventy years old in 1937." Wright lives on through the beautiful buildings he designed, as well as through the powerful and enduring idea that guided all of his work—that buildings should serve to honor and enhance the natural beauty surrounding them. "I would like to have a free architecture," Wright wrote. "Architecture that belonged where you see it standing—and is a grace to the landscape instead of a disgrace."
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