Archive for the 'Frank Lloyd Wright' Category


Taliesin – Wisconsin

Taliesin (pronounced /ˌtæli.ˈɛsɨn/), near Spring Green, Wisconsin, was the summer home of American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright began the home in 1911 after leaving his first wife, Catherine Tobin, and his Oak Park, Illinois, home and studio in 1909. The impetus behind Wright’s departure was his affair with Mamah Borthwick Cheney, who had been his client, along with her husband, Edwin Cheney. His winter home, Taliesin West, is located in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The valley in which Taliesin sits was originally settled by Wright’s maternal family, the Lloyd Joneses, during the Civil War. Immigrants from Wales, Wright’s maternal grandfather and uncle were Unitarian ministers, and his two aunts began a co-educational school in the family valley in 1887. Wright’s mother, Anna Lloyd Jones Wright, began sending her son to the valley every summer, beginning when he was eleven years old. The family, their ideas, religion, and ideals, greatly influenced the young Wright, who later changed his middle name from Lincoln (in honor of Abraham Lincoln) to Lloyd in deference to this side of the family.

When Wright decided to begin a home in this valley, he chose the name of the Welsh bard Taliesin, whose name means “shining brow” or “radiant brow”. Wright positioned the home on the “brow” of a hill, a favorite of his from childhood. The home was designed with three wings that included his living quarters, an office, and farm buildings. Aside from placing the building into the landscape, Wright used Taliesin as a way to explore his ideas of organic architecture. The chimneys and stone piers were built from local limestone, laid by the stonemasons in a way that evoked the outcroppings of Wisconsin’s surrounding Driftless Area (the area unaccompanied by glacial drift), and sand from the nearby Wisconsin River was mixed into the stucco walls to evoke the river’s sandbars



Louis H Sullivan

“Louis H. Sullivan
(b. Boston, Massachusetts 1856; d. Chicago, Illinois 1924)

Louis Sullivan was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1856. He studied architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for one year. He then worked as a draughtsman for Furness and Hewitt in Philadelphia and for William Le Baron Jenney in Chicago. In July 1874 Sullivan travelled to Europe where he studied in the Vaudremer studio at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. He returned to Chicago a year later.

In 1883 Sullivan became a full partner with Dankmar Adler. They remained together until 1895 when Adler retired. Although Sullivan was usually viewed as the designer being backed by Adler’s engineering skills, Adler’s work showed an individual strength that has often been ignored. A notable designer who moved up within the office, eventually going out on his own, was Frank Lloyd Wright.

Sullivan’s designs generally involved a simple geometric form decorated with ornamentation based on organic symbolism. As an organizer and formal theorist on aesthetics, he propounded an architecture that exhibited the spirit of the time and needs of the people. Considered one of the most influential forces in the Chicago School, his philosophy that form should always follow function went beyond functional and structural expressions.

Considered the “Dean of American Architects”, Sullivan died in Chicago, Illinois 1924 shortly after The Autobiography of an Idea and A System of Architectural Ornament. were published.



Frank Lloyd Wright – A Film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novak

I just finished “Frank Lloyd Wright – A film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick (1998)”

Available on


Unity Temple

Frank Lloyd Wright 1905-1908

This gem is what some would argue is Wright’s best public work. Commissioned by the Oak Park Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Wright convinced the client to abolish ideals of the little white New England steeple as proper form for a church. Instead of imitation, he proposed a building that would emphasize the presence of God in the gathering of people. The result is a sacred space with introspective central rooms protected by solid walls, all at once intimate and monumental, solitary and communal, human and spiritual.

The Unity Temple is constructed out of reinforced concrete due both to budget restrictions and Wright’s eagerness to experiment with new materials. It was one of the first buildings to do so in North America; Wright used exposed concrete externally to define mass and volume, and internally as floating planes to define spaces. This complex dialogue between inside and outside for Wright was central to his architectural theories of the interior unfolding truthfully outward and expressed itself in materials, form and experience

Wright also wielded his virtuosity with light and dark, compression and release, and play with geometry to give meaning to humble human acts. For example, there are multiple dark entries into the temple to allow the solitary, perhaps tardy, worshipper to enter without being noticed. The dark entrances then ushers the worshipper into a jewel-box space, lit from above and facing others in the parish in a democratic, communal box. The geometries that pervade the building are repeated throughout and unified at the altar, highlighting its importance.


Skidmore, Owings and Merrill LLP

Skidmore, Owings and Merrill LLP (SOM) is an architectural and engineering firm that was formed in Chicago in 1936 by Louis Skidmore and Nathaniel Owings; in 1939 they were joined by John O. Merrill. They opened their first branch in New York City, New York in 1937. SOM is one of the largest architectural firms in the world. Their primary expertise is in high-end commercial buildings, as it was SOM that led the way to the widespread use of the modern international-style or “glass box” skyscraper. They have been built several of the tallest buildings in the world, including: John Hancock Center (1969, second tallest in the world when built), Sears Tower (1973, tallest in the world for over twenty years), and Burj Khalifa (2010, current world’s tallest building). SOM provides services in Architecture, Building Services/MEP Engineering, Digital Design, Graphics, Interior Design, Structural Engineering, Civil Engineering, Sustainable Design and Urban Design & Planning.

Many of SOM’s post-war designs have become icons of American modern architecture, including the Manhattan House (1950), designated as a New York City landmark in 2007 by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, and the Lever House (1952), also in New York City; as well as the Air Force Academy Chapel (1958) in Colorado Springs, Colorado; and the John Hancock Center (1969) and Willis Tower (1973), both in Chicago.

Although SOM was one of the first major modern American architectural firms to promote a corporate face, i.e. not specifically crediting individual architects for their buildings, many famous architects, engineers and interior designers have been associated with the various national offices.

Due to their faithful following of Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe’s ideas, Frank Lloyd Wright nicknamed them “The Three Blind Mies”.

Well-known SOM architects include: Gordon Bunshaft, Natalie de Blois, Myron Goldsmith, Bruce Graham, Gertrude Kerbis, Walter Netsch, Pietro Belluschi, Adrian Smith, Ferdinand Gottlieb, Larry Oltmanns, Fazlur Rahman Khan and David Childs.

The earliest amongst the many SOM engineers was John O. Merrill. Fazlur Khan, another engineer at SOM, is considered “the greatest structural engineer of the second half of the 20th century;” he is best known for his constructions of the Willis Tower and John Hancock Center and for his designs of structural systems that remain fundamental to all high-rise skyscrapers.[3] Indeed, Khan is responsible for developing the algorithms that made the Hancock building and many subsequent skyscrapers possible.

Interior designers
Davis Allen, a pioneer in corporate interior design, had a forty-year tenure at SOM.

Throughout its history, SOM has been recognized with more than 800 awards for quality and innovation. More than 125 of these awards have been received since 1998. In 1996 and 1962, SOM received the American Institute of Architects Firm Award[5], which recognizes the design work of an entire firm. SOM is the only firm to have received this honor twice.

In 2009, SOM received four of 13 R+D Awards from Architect Magazine. In addition, a collaboration between SOM and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, The Center for Architecture, Science & Ecology, was honored with a fifth award.

The firm’s website:

July 2019
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