Frank Lloyd Wright
Frank Lloyd Wright was born on June 8th, 1867 in Richland Center, Wisconsin. He was originally named Frank Lincoln Wright but changed his name after his parents’ divorced, to honor his mother’s Welsh family: the Lloyd Joneses of Wisconsin.
Even before birth, he was destined to be a designer. His mother decorated his nursery with engravings of English Cathedrals, and declared, when she knew she was expecting her first child, that he will grow up to build beautiful buildings.
His mother Anna, took a strong interest in a series of educational blocks created by Friedrich Wilhelm August Froebel. These blocks, known as Froebel Gifts were the foundation of his new kindergarten programme. Anna purchased these and as a child, Frank spent a lot of time playing with them. The various geometric shapes could be assembled in combinations to form three-dimensional designs. Many of Wright’s later works have distinct geometrical clarity, which he mentioned in his autobiography, as being influential of these blocks.
Due to his family’s poor financial situation, Frank never attended high school. He was granted admission to the University of Wisconsin as a special student in 1885, and took part time classes for two semesters in engineering, as the school had no architectural courses. He eventually left in 1887 without finishing his degree. While at university, he was apprenticed under a local builder and professor of civil engineering. This was valuable experience, as when he left Wisconsin and moved to Chicago, he was able to gain a job at an architectural firm.
He married his first wife, Catherine Lee “Kitty” Tobin in 1889. she was the daughter of a wealthy businessman, and his marriage to her raised his social status considerably.
Frank worked for architectural firm Adler & Sullivan, taking on all the residential design work for the firm, however, worked behind his employers back for commission to support his rapidly expanding family. Eventually, Wright left Sullivan and established his own company, from his home.
Most of Wright’s most notable work occurred between 1900 and 1917. In particular, his residential Prairie Houses were quite innovative, being the first examples of open plan living. As an independent architect, Wright became the leader of a style known as the Prairie school.
Perhaps following in his parent’s footsteps, Frank’s colourful personality was well-known in the press. His personal life frequently made headlines- especially the incidences of his two failed marriages, and the 1914 fire and tragic murders at his Taliesin studio, originally built as a fortress for him and his mistress.
Frank Lloyd Wright died on April 9, 1959, in Phoenix, Arizona.