Lloyd Wright was born in Richland Center,
Wisconsin on June 8, 1867. His parents, William
Cary Wright and Anna Lloyd-Jones, originally
named him Frank Lincoln Wright, which he later
changed after they divorced. When he was twelve
years old, Wright's family settled in Madison,
Wisconsin where he attended Madison High School.
During summers spent on his Uncle James Lloyd
Jones' farm in Spring Green, Wisconsin, Wright
first began to realize his dream of becoming
an architect. In 1885, he left Madison without
finishing high school to work for Allan Conover,
the Dean of the University of Wisconsin's
Engineering department. While at the University,
Wright spent two semesters studying civil
engineering before moving to Chicago in 1887.
In Chicago, he worked for architect Joseph
Lyman Silsbee. Wright drafted the construction
of his first building, the Lloyd-Jones family
chapel, also known as Unity Chapel. One year
later, he went to work for the firm of Adler
and Sullivan, directly under Louis Sullivan.
Wright adapted Sullivan's maxim "Form
Follows Function" to his own revised
theory of "Form and Function Are One."
It was Sullivan's belief that American Architecture
should be based on American function, not
European traditions, a theory which Wright
later developed further. Throughout his life,
Wright acknowledged very few influences but
credits Sullivan as a primary influence on
his career. While working for Sullivan, Wright
met and fell in love with Catherine Tobin.
The two moved to Oak Park, Illinois and built
a home where they eventually raised their
five children. In 1893, Sullivan and Wright
ended their business relationship. Wright
opened his own firm in Chicago, which he operated
there for five years before transferring the
practice to his home in Oak Park.
Wright's early houses revealed a unique talent
in the young, aspiring architect. They had
a style all their own, mimicking that of a
horizontal plane, with no basements or attics.
Built with natural materials and never painted,
Wright utilized low-pitched rooflines with
deep overhangs and uninterrupted walls of
windows to merge the horizontal homes into
their environments. He added large stone or
brick fireplaces in the homes' heart, and
made the rooms open to one another. His simplistic
houses served as an inspiration to the Prairie
School, a name given to a group of architects
whose style was indigenous of midwestern architecture.
Later he became one of its chief practitioners.
Some of his most notable creations include
the Robie House in Chicago, Illinois and the
Martin House in Buffalo, New York.
In 1909, after eighteen years in Oak Park,
Wright left his home to move to Germany with
a woman named Mamah Borthwick Cheney. When
they returned in 1911, they moved to Spring
Green, Wisconsin where his mother had given
him a portion of his ancestors' land; it was
the same farm where he had spent much time
as a young boy. In Spring Green he constructed
Taliesin. They lived there until 1914 when
tragedy struck. An insane servant tragically
murdered Cheney and six others, then set fire
to Taliesin. Many people thought this horrific
event would be the end of Wright's career.
He proved them wrong however, with his decision
to rebuild Taliesin.
Over the next 20 years Wright's influence
continued to grow in popularity in the United
States and Europe. Eventually his innovative
building style spread overseas. In 1915, Wright
was commissioned to design the Imperial Hotel
in Tokyo. It was during this time that Wright
began to develop and refine his architectural
and sociological philosophies. Because Wright
disliked the urban environment, his buildings
also developed a style quite different from
other architects of the time. He utilized
natural materials, skylights and walls of
windows to embrace the natural environment.
He built skyscrapers that mimicked trees,
with a central trunk and many branches projecting
outward. He proclaimed that shapes found in
the environment should be not only integrated,
but should become the basis of American architecture.
A great example is the Larkin Company Administration
Building in Buffalo, New York (1903), and
the Guggenheim Museum in New York City (1943),
which resembles the structure of a shell or
In 1932, Wright opened Taliesin up as an architectural
fellowship where young students could pay
to work with and learn from him. Thirty apprentices
came to live with him at Taliesin. Through
the Taliesin Fellowship, Wright created masterpieces
such as Fallingwater (the Kaufmann House)
in Mill Run, Pennsylvania, and the SC Johnson
and Son Wax Company Administration Center
in Racine, Wisconsin. During this time, he
married and separated from Miriam Noel and
met his third wife, Olivanna Milanoff. The
two lived happily at Taliesin for five years
and raised a child there. As the couple grew
older, the Wisconsin winters became too much
for them. In 1937, Wright moved his family
and fellowship to Phoenix, Arizona where he
built Taliesin West and spent the last twenty
years of his life.
At Taliesin West, because of the comfortable
year-round climate, Wright was able to integrate
the outdoors with his indoor spaces. He designed
high sloping roofs, translucent ceilings,
and large, open doors and windows that created
a subtle distinction between the home and
the environment. Both Taliesin and Taliesin
West were continuous living experiences for
Wright as they constantly remained under construction.
As his fellowship grew and the need for a
larger facility became necessary, Wright continued
to create additions and expansions on both
On April 9, 1959 at age ninety-two, Wright
died at his home in Phoenix, Arizona. By the
time of his death, he had become internationally
recognized for his innovative building style
and contemporary designs. He had created 1,141
designs, of which 532 were completed. His
name had become synonymous with great design,
not only because of the form of his designs,
but also because of the function. In the end,
he showed not just what to live in, but more
importantly he influenced the very nature
of how we lived.