Today marks the 147th birthday of Frank Lloyd Wright, the man the American Institute of Architects recognizes as “the greatest American architect of all time.”
Over his 91 years, Wright designed a total of 1,141 structures, authored 20 books, published numerous articles, lectured across the world, and founded an architectural apprenticeship program at both of his homes—Taliesin in Spring Green, Wis., and Taliesin West, in Scottsdale, Ariz.
But it was his deep belief that architecture could nourish mankind in social, political, and even spiritual realms that set him apart from other architects, even through today. Wright’s life work was fueled by his faith in the interconnectedness between architecture, life, and spirit.
“Noble life demands a noble architecture for noble uses of noble men,” he said. “Lack of culture means what it has always meant: ignoble civilization and therefore imminent downfall.”
Wright offered up his vision of architecture as a sort of salve for social and political problems of the day. “Maybe we can show government how to operate better as a result of better architecture,” he said.
Believing it possible to live in harmony with nature, Wright said, “No house should ever be on any hill or on anything. It should be of the hill, belonging to it, so hill and house could live together each the happier for the other.”
Background image of a bay window and light fixture in Oak Park, Ill., designed by Frank Lloyd Wright via Shutterstock
But even a noble architect is a flawed human being after all; Wright was not always noble when it came to family matters. His first marriage to Catherine Tobin faltered after his scandalous relationship began with Mamah Cheney, his neighbor’s wife. Wright and Tobin would eventually divorce.
Perhaps the hardest time of Wright’s life was when misfortune struck and a servant lit fire to his home, killing Cheney and her two children.
While Wright’s life was not perfect, we celebrate the nobility and goodness he created in the world through his praiseworthy architecture and the legacy of his students. Wright said, “A great architect is not made by way of a brain nearly so much as he is made by way of a cultivated, enriched heart.”
This sounds like a worthy goal: “a cultivated, enriched heart.” And if we achieve it, might we become the “great architects” of our own lives?
*Image of the interior of a Frank Lloyd Wright building by ahisgett via Compfight cc ; lead image of a building designed by Wright by holowac via Compfight cc; image of the Price Tower via Shutterstock; image of the Guggenheim via Shutterstock; image of the Rookery Building by Jamie In Bytown via Compfight; image of Oak Park home via Shutterstock; image of the Tokyo Imperial hotel via Shutterstock; Robie House via Shutterstock; interior with square windows and wood paneling by String_bass_dave via Compfight cc.