Organic Architecture

Organic Architecture

29 June, 2017
Frank Lloyd Wright
Celebrating 150 years of transcendental design

Sustainable and green design may be today’s buzzwords, but these are not new concepts. Many modern homes seek to integrate people with nature, to create a living space that melds with the landscape. "No house should ever be on a hill or on anything. It should be of the hill. Belonging to it. Hill and house should live together, each the happier for the other".

This year we celebrate the 150th birthday of one of the most famous and innovative architects of all time, Frank Lloyd Wright.

There are about 380 Wright structures still standing; 10 of those iconic buildings are on a tentative list for UNESCO World Heritage status, and all are already listed as US Heritage Sites. This alone is truly wondrous—this is the first time World Heritage has considered the nomination of modern architecture for this list, which includes India’s Taj Mahal and the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

Fans flock to see those Wright structures that are open to the public, and tours are often booked out weeks in advance. Richard Longstreth, president of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, said of the transcendental designer: "Wright was the father of modern architecture, fundamentally redefining the nature of form and space during the early 20th century in ways that would have enduring impact on modern architecture worldwide".

Ecozine brings you our top five editor picks for road-trip worthy architecture, plus recommendations for some great reads along the way.

1. Taliesin
Taliesin (Welsh, for "shining brow") was Wright’s beloved home and office in rural Wisconsin from 1911 to 1959. It is one of his greatest achievements and the headquarters of the Taliesin Preservation society. Taliesin West, in Scottsdale, Arizona, was Wright’s winter home and continues to operate as the heart of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. Wright's legacy for sustainable design continues: Taliesin students dreamed up the Mod.Fab home, a modern take on the pre-fab home complete with rainwater collection, solar photovoltaic panels, natural ventilation, and other eco-friendly features.

2. Usonian homes
The Zimmerman House in New Hampshire is an example of the architect’s tidily efficient Usonian homes and the only Wright house open to the public in New England. Wright’s Usonian houses paired minimalism with energy-efficient design. Houses were small and affordable, not ostentatious. Sunlight and wind were utilised in the design to provide natural heating and cooling solutions—certainly something that every good sustainability architect takes into consideration today.

3. Fallingwater
This unusual house in Pennsylvania was built for the Kaufmann family around 1936. The house is built over a 30-foot waterfall using a cantilever design, the plans of which were allegedly drawn up in under two hours. Compared to the Usonian homes, Fallingwater is considered to be a “contradiction in sustainable design” because of its frustrating maintenance and seeming intrusion of the natural surrounding. However, enthusiasts argue that the house works perfectly with its environment—just as Wright intended.

4. Price Tower
Price Tower, in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, at a modest 19 stories tall is the only skyscraper ever built by Wright. (The tree-like structure was supposed to only be two stories high and built in New York City, but the cantankerous architect very rarely let other people stand in the way of his vision.) This building is considered the first eco-tower of its kind, employing levers and fins to regulate heat and light. The concrete walls also regulate thermal mass and promote social sustainability by mixing residential and commercial space in the same building. Wright was 85 years old when he was commissioned for this building.

Price Tower—now a boutique hotel with a ground-floor arts centre—is among the collection of buildings nominated as a World Heritage Site.

5. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
The New York Guggenheim Museum, with its spiralling ramp, modernist curves and domed roof, was completed in 1959, four months after Wright’s death. It cost $3 million to build the museum, and $29 million to restore it in 2008. Unlike the Price Tower, the Guggenheim widens as it spirals upwards.

"Wright’s concerns with materials, efficient use of space, sustainable manufacturing, attention to local environment and use of natural light mirror those of contemporary architects worldwide", said James Ballinger, director of the Phoenix Art Museum.

Events and exhibitions: The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust is celebrating the sesquicentennial birthday by presenting a variety of programs around the US that both inspire up-and-coming architects and promote the preservation of Wright’s work. Can't figure out which birthday party to attend? Check this out for lots of events and exhibitions happening all year.

Good reads: Fallingwater: A Frank Lloyd Wright Country House, by Edgar Kaufmann Jr.
Frank Lloyd Wright's Usonian Houses: The Case for Organic Architecture, by John Sergeant
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum: An Architectural Appreciation, by Stephen Hoban
Evolving Transcendentalism in Literature and Architecture: Frank Furness, Louis Sullivan, and Frank Lloyd Wright, by Naomi Tanabe Uechi

By: Adriane Rysz


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