In the Words of Frank Lloyd Wright

Quotations from the Most Famous Architect in America, 150 Years Later

Black and white portrait of Frank Lloyd Wright, an older white man sitting in a chair, with a cane, dressed in a three-piece suit, with his large hand up to his face
Architect Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959).

MPI/Getty Images

American architect Frank Lloyd Wright was known for his Prairie Style house designs, his tempestuous person life, and his prolific writings, including speeches and magazine articles. His long life (91 years) gave him time to fill volumes. Here are some of Frank Lloyd Wright's most notable quotations—and our favorites:

On Simplicity

In contrast to his tumultuous personal life, Wright spent his architectural life expressing beauty through simple, natural forms and designs. How does an architect create beautiful yet functional forms?

"Five lines where three are enough is always stupidity. Nine pounds where three are sufficient is obesity....To know what to leave out and what to put in, just where and just how, ah, that is to have been educated in knowledge of simplicity—toward ultimate freedom of expression."The Natural House, 1954

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

"Simplicity and repose are qualities that measure the true value of any work of art....An excessive love of detail has ruined more fine things from the standpoint of fine art or fine living than any one human shortcoming; it is hopelessly vulgar." In the Cause of Architecture I  (1908)

Organic Architecture

Before there was Earth Day and LEED certification, Wright promoted an ecology and naturalness in architectural design. The home should not be on a plot of land but be of the land—an organic part of the environment. Much of Wright's writings describes the philosophy of organic architecture:

" is in the nature of any organic building to grow from its site, come out of the ground into the light—the ground itself held always as a component basic part of the building itself." The Natural House (1954)

"A building should appear to grow easily from its site and be shaped to harmonize with its surroundings if nature is manifest there, and if not try to make it as quiet, substantial, and organic as she would have been were the opportunity hers." In the Cause of Architecture I  (1908)

"Where does the garden leave off and the house begin?" The Natural House, 1954

"This Architecture we call organic is an architecture upon which true American society will eventually be based if we survive at all." The Natural House, 1954

"True poetry. A good building is the greatest of poems when it is organic architecture." "An Organic Architecture," The London Lectures (1939), The Future of Architecture

"So here I stand before you preaching organic architecture: declaring organic architecture to be the modern ideal..." "An Organic Architecture," The London Lectures (1939), The Future of Architecture

Nature and Natural Forms

Some of the most famous architects were born in June, including Wright, born in Wisconsin on June 8, 1867. His youth on the prairie lands of Wisconsin, especially the times he spent on his uncle's farm, shaped the way this future architect incorporated natural elements into his designs:

"Nature is the great teacher—man can only receive and respond to her teaching." The Natural House, 1954

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

"The prairie has a beauty of its own...." In the Cause of Architecture I  (1908)

"Primarily, nature furnished the materials for architectural motifs...her wealth of suggestion is inexhaustible; her riches greater than any man's desire." In the Cause of Architecture I  (1908)

"...go to the woods and fields for color schemes." In the Cause of Architecture I  (1908)

"I have never been fond of paints or of wallpaper or anything which must be applied to other things as a surface....Wood is wood, concrete is concrete, stone is stone." The Natural House (1954)

The Nature of Man

Frank Lloyd Wright had a way of seeing the world as one whole, not differentiating between the living, breathing home or of the human being. "Human houses should not be like boxes," he lectured in 1930. Wright continued:

"Any house is a far too complicated , clumsy, fussy, mechanical counterfeit of the human body. Electric wiring for nervous system, plumbing for bowels, heating system and fireplaces for arteries and heart, and windows for eyes, nose, and lungs generally." "The Cardboard House," the Princeton Lectures, 1930, The Future of Architecture

"What a man does—that he has." The Natural House, 1954

"A house that has character stands a good chance of growing more valuable as it grows older...Buildings like people must first be sincere, must be true...." In the Cause of Architecture I  (1908)

"Plaster houses were then new. Casement windows were new....Nearly everything was new but the law of gravity and the idiosyncrasy of the client." The Natural House, 1954

On Style

Although realtors and developers have embraced "the Prairie style" home, Wright designed each home for the land it was on and the people who would occupy it. He said:

"There should be as many kinds (styles) of houses as there are kinds (styles) of people and as many differentiations as there are different individuals. A man who has individuality (and what man lacks it?) has a right to its expression in his own environment." In the Cause of Architecture I  (1908)

"Style is a byproduct of the process....To adopt a 'style' as a motive is to put the cart before the horse...." In the Cause of Architecture II  (1914)

On Architecture

As an architect, Frank Lloyd Wright never wavered in his beliefs about architecture and the use of space inside and out. Homes as different as Fallingwater and Taliesin have the same natural, organic elements he learned about as a boy in Wisconsin.

"...every house...should begin on the ground, not in it...." The Natural House (1954)

"'Form follows function' is mere dogma until you realize the higher truth that form and function are one." The Natural House (1954)

"The house of moderate cost is not only America's major architectural problem but the problem most difficult for her major architects." The Natural House (1954)

"Had steel, concrete, and glass existed in the ancient order we could have had nothing like our ponderous, senseless 'classic' architecture." The Natural House, 1954

"...architecture is life; or at least it is life itself taking form and therefore it is the truest record of life as it was lived in the world yesterday, as it is lived today or ever will be lived. So architecture I know to be a Great Spirit." The Future: Valedictory (1939)

"What is needed most in architecture today is the very thing that is most needed in life—integrity." The Natural House (1954)

"...architectural values are human values, or they are not valuable....Human values are life giving, not life taking." The Disappearing City (1932)

Advice To The Young Architect

From the Chicago Art Institute Lecture (1931), The Future of Architecture

The influences of the "old master," architect Louis Sullivan, stayed with Wright all of his life, even as Wright was more famous and became the master himself.

"'Think simples,' as my old master used to say—meaning to reduce the whole to its parts in simplest terms, getting back to first principles."

"Take time to prepare....Then go as far away as possible from home to build your first buildings. The physician can bury his mistakes, but the architect can only advise his clients to plant vines."

"...form the habit of thinking 'why'....get the habit of analysis...."

"Regard it as just as desirable to build a chicken house as to build a cathedral. The size of the project means little in art, beyond the money matter."

"So, architecture speaks as poetry to the soul. In this machine age to utter this poetry that is architecture, as in all other ages, you must learn the organic language of the natural which is ever the language of the new."

"Every great architect is—necessarily—a great poet. He must be a great original interpreter of his time, his day, his age." "An Organic Architecture," The London Lectures (1939), The Future of Architecture

Quotations Popularly Attributed to Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright quotes are as abundant as the number of buildings he completed. Many quotations have been repeated so many time, it's difficult to accurately source when they were said, or, even, if they are accurate quotes from Wright himself. Here are some that often appear in collections of quotations:

"I hate intellectuals. They are from the top down. I am from the bottom up."

"TV is chewing gum for the eyes."

"Early in life I had to choose between honest arrogance and hypocritical humility. I chose honest arrogance and have seen no occasion to change."

"The thing always happens that you really believe in; and the belief in a thing makes it happen."

"The truth is more important than the facts."

"Youth is a quality, not a matter of circumstances."

"An idea is salvation by imagination."

"Get the habit of analysis—analysis will in time enable synthesis to become your habit of mind."

"I feel coming on a strange disease—humility."

"If it keeps up, man will atrophy all his limbs but the push-button finger."

"The scientist has marched in and taken the place of the poet. But one day somebody will find the solution to the problems of the world and remember, it will be a poet, not a scientist."

"No stream rises higher than its source. What ever man might build could never express or reflect more than he was. He could record neither more nor less than he had learned of life when the buildings were built."

"The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes. If you foolishly ignore beauty, you will soon find yourself without it. Your life will be impoverished. But if you invest in beauty, it will remain with you all the days of your life."

"The present is the ever moving shadow that divides yesterday from tomorrow. In that lies hope."

"I find it hard to believe that the machine would go into the creative artist's hand even were that magic hand in true place. It has been too far exploited by industrialism and science at expense to art and true religion."

"The screech and mechanical uproar of the big city turns the citified head, fills citified ears—as the song of birds, wind in the trees, animal cries, or as the voices and songs of his loved ones once filled his heart. He is sidewalk-happy."

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Craven, Jackie. "In the Words of Frank Lloyd Wright." ThoughtCo, Sep. 3, 2021, Craven, Jackie. (2021, September 3). In the Words of Frank Lloyd Wright. Retrieved from Craven, Jackie. "In the Words of Frank Lloyd Wright." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 4, 2023).