Frank Lloyd Wright, America's Most Famous Architect

(1867-1959)

Portrait in black and white of Frank Lloyd Wright in 1942.
Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesen, Wisconsin, December 1942. Photo by Joe Munroe, Hulton Archive, ©2003 Getty Images

Frank Lloyd Wright has been called America's most famous architect. During his 70-year career, Wright designed 1,141 buildings, including homes, offices, churches, schools, libraries, bridges, and museums. Five hundred and thirty-two of these designs were completed, and 409 still stand.

Background:

Born: June 8, 1867 in Richland Center, Wisconsin

Died: April 9, 1959 in Arizona, at age 91

Education:

When he was 15, Frank Lloyd Wright entered the University of Wisconsin as a special student.

The school had no course in architecture; Wright studied engineering.

Apprenticeship:

Leaving school after a few semesters, Frank Lloyd Wright apprenticed with J.L. Silsbee and eventually with Louis Sullivan. While working on skyscrapers at the Sullivan office, Wright took on side-jobs in the suburbs. These houses, often with Queen Anne details, are often called Wright's "bootleg" homes.

After working with Adler and Sullivan for several years, Sullivan discovered that Wright was designing houses outside the office's work. The young Wright split from Sullivan and opened his own practice in 1893.

Selected Wright Designs:

See our Frank Lloyd Wright Buildings Index for a more complete list of Wright designs, including hundreds of private homes throughout the United States. Here are some of his most famous buildings, many are still standing:

Important Ideas of the Architect:

Quotes by Frank Lloyd Wright:

"The physician can bury his mistakes, but the architect can only advise his clients to plant vines."
New York Times Magazine (4 Oct. 1953)

"The land is the simplest form of architecture."
"Some Aspects of the Past and Present in Architecture," ©1937, The Future of Architecture, 1953

"Form and function are one."
"Some Aspects of the Future of Architecture," ©1937, The Future of Architecture, 1953

"So I began to study the nature of materials, learning to see them. I now learned to see brick as brick, to see wood as wood, and to see concrete or glass or metal. See each for itself and all as themselves. Strange to say, this required greater concentration of imagination. Each material demanded different handling and had possibilities of use peculiar to its own nature.

Appropriate designs for one material would not be appropriate at all for another material."
Frank Lloyd Wright: An Autobiography, 1943, p. 148

Read more Frank Lloyd Wright Quotations >>

More About FLW:

Frank Lloyd Wright never attended architecture school, but working with blocks while in the Froebel Kindergarten must have whetted his appetite for building. Now called Anchor Blocks, these German Toys for the Budding Builder are still available.

As a child, Wright worked on his uncle's farm in Wisconsin, and he later described himself as an American primitive - an innocent but clever country boy whose education on the farm made him more perceptive and more down-to-earth.

Frank Lloyd Wright pioneered a long, low style known as the Prairie house. He experimented with obtuse angles and circles, creating unusually shaped structures such as the spiral Guggenheim Museum (1943-49).

He developed a series of low-cost homes that he called Usonian. And most importantly, Frank Lloyd Wright changed the way we think of interior space. See Frank Lloyd Wright Interiors — The Architecture of Space for examples.

Frank Lloyd Wright was married three times and had seven children. His work was controversial and his private life was often the subject of gossip. Although his work was praised in Europe as early as 1910, it was not until 1949 that he received an award from American Institute of Architects.

To learn more about Frank Lloyd Wright's tumultuous life and marriages, see Frank Lloyd Wright, The Most Famous Architect of the 20th Century from our 20th Century History Expert.