Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore it if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance
For sometimes glimpses on my sight
Through present wrong the eternal right
And step by step since time began
We see the steady gain of man
– Welsh hymn, from the poetry of John Greenleaf Whittier
In a search for the quintessential American pioneer and archetype of twentieth-century capitalism, it would be hard to find a better representation than Frank Lloyd Wright (1867 – 1959). An architect and builder par excellence, Wright designed more than 1,100 buildings during his lifetime, of which 532 were completed. He was acclaimed as “the world’s greatest living architect” by the American historian and architectural critic, Lewis Mumford; and after Wright’s death; Mumford declared him as “the Fujiyama of American architecture, at once a lofty mountain and a national shrine.”
At an early age, Wright entered into a seven year apprenticeship with the innovative American architect Louis Henry Sullivan, who is known today as the “father of modernism” and the “father of skyscrapers”. Sullivan entirely rejected the muddled embellishment of European architectural design including the opulent ornamentation of Gothic Revival, French Empire, and Italianate designs which permeated the streets of America’s nineteenth-century cities. Instead, Sullivan favored cleaner engineering more in line with the maxim he personally coined: “form follows function”.
Although Frank Lloyd Wright later founded his own firm in the Chicago area in 1893, his tallest building was a mere nineteen-story construction in Oklahoma. Instead of soaring urban towers, Wright consummated his own uniquely American classification of architecture known as the Prairie School, a type of organic design marked by horizontal lines reconciled in harmonic integration with the landscape surrounding his structures. Wright’s buildings were the result of a philosophy he designated as “Organic Architecture” and it is said the name “Usonian” was developed by Wright while on a trip to Europe, whereby he envisioned a new landscape for the United States to include urban planning combined with avant-garde architectural configurations.
To continue reading: The Wright Women: “Loving Frank”, an Architect of Modernity