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The Tailor-Made Guide to Visiting Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture in the US


Visiting Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture

Author: Barry Pickard

Frank Lloyd Wright was one of the most important architects of the 20th century. His work, known as "organic architecture," was characterised by its use of natural materials, its emphasis on harmony with the environment, and its flowing, organic forms. Wright designed over 1,000 buildings during his lifetime, with 532 of them being realised, including houses, churches, schools, museums, and skyscrapers.


Visiting Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture
Fallingwater, Pennsylvania

In this post, I will detail the amazing Frank Lloyd Wright buildings that I have visited and give an insight on what there is to see at these sites and how to visit them. By way of introduction, I will also give a brief overview of his life and why his architecture was so important. I hope you find Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs as impressive as I do.


Visiting Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture
Arthur Heurtley House, Oak Park, Chicago

Don’t forget that Tailor-Made Itineraries delights in creating bespoke self-guided tours. So, if visiting any of these amazing buildings appeals to you, reach out to me by email. I would be more than happy to design a self-guided tour around your requirements incorporating the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, or indeed, any themed tour of the US.


Visiting Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture

Who was Frank Lloyd Wright?


Wright was born in Richland Center, Wisconsin, in 1867. He studied civil engineering at the University of Wisconsin and then worked for several years in the office of Louis Sullivan, another important American architect. In 1893, Wright set up his own architectural practice in Chicago.


Visiting Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture
Charnley-Persky House Museum, Chicago

Wright's early work pioneered what was to become known as the Prairie School of architecture, which emphasised horizontal lines and natural materials. In 1909, Wright moved to Spring Green, Wisconsin, where he built his home and studio, Taliesin. Taliesin became a center for Wright's architectural experiments and a gathering place for his apprentices.


In the 1930s, Wright began to experiment with new materials and form, designing a number of innovative houses. Wright’s work culminated in the 1950s, designing the Guggenheim Museum. Unfortunately, Wright died in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1959 at 91 years old, just six months before the Guggenheim Museum was opened.


Visiting Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Why was Frank Lloyd Wright’s Architecture So Important?


Wright's work was ground-breaking and innovative. He was one of the first architects to use natural materials and to emphasize harmony with the environment. His designs were also characterised by their flowing, organic forms, which were a departure from the traditional boxy architecture of the time.


Wright's architecture was functional and practical. His buildings were designed to be comfortable and efficient to live in. The architecture was beautiful, and they were also praised for their use of light and space. Wright's architecture was also influential, inspiring a generation of architects and designers.


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Visiting Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture Pennsylvania


Fallingwater


Fallingwater is a house designed by Wright in 1935 in the Laurel Highlands of southwest Pennsylvania, about 70 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. It is built partly over a waterfall on Bear Run and was designed to serve as a weekend retreat for Liliane and Edgar J. Kaufmann, the owner of Pittsburgh's Kaufmann's Department Store. They commissioned Wright to design a house that would blend in with the natural surroundings and provide them with a place to relax and escape the hustle and bustle of city life.


Visiting Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture
Fallingwater

Wright's design for Fallingwater was revolutionary for its time. The house is built on a cantilevered structure that extends out over the waterfall, creating a sense of lightness and airiness. The walls are made of glass, which allows the occupants to enjoy the stunning views of the surrounding forest. Fallingwater is a masterpiece of organic architecture, and it has been hailed as one of the most important buildings of the 20th century.


Visiting Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture
Fallingwater

The Kaufmanns lived in Fallingwater for 26 years, and it became a beloved family retreat. They would often spend weekends at the house, swimming in the waterfall, hiking in the forest, and entertaining guests. In 1963, the Kaufmanns donated Fallingwater to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, and it has been open to the public as a museum ever since.


Visiting Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture
Fallingwater

Tailor-Made Top Tip: Fallingwater is one of Pennsylvania’s most popular attractions, so make sure to book your tickets as soon as possible to avoid disappointment. Reservations are required for all visits and there is no public transportation to the site, so you will need a car to access Fallingwater.



Guided Architectural Tours ($35) are available throughout the day and there are a small number of Guided Grounds Walking Tours ($25). However, it was the In-Depth Guided Tour that I chose. Although more expensive ($87), you get an in-depth exploration of the home with this option. There are two early morning tours, with a third tour later in the afternoon, depending on the season.


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Polymath Park


Polymath Park is a 125-acre resort located in the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania. The park is home to two Frank Lloyd Wright-designed homes, two Peter Berndtson-designed homes, and the Treetops Restaurant.


Visiting Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture
Duncan House, Polymath Park

The Duncan House, a home that Wright designed in 1957, was moved to the park in 2007 from Lisle, Illinois. The Mäntylä House, that Wright designed in 1952, was also brought to Polymath Park and rebuilt in 2018. As well as getting to enjoy the beautiful design of these two buildings, you also get to learn about the painstaking work in preserving these homes from demolition and their piece by piece reconstruction.


Visiting Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture
Mäntylä House, Polymath Park

Both homes are built in the Usonian style, which is characterized by its simple, functional design and its use of natural materials. The homes are also designed to blend in with the natural surroundings.



There are another two homes of architectural interest in the park - the Balter House and the Blum House, both of which were designed by Peter Berndtson, an architect who had worked under Wright on projects that included the Guggenheim Museum.


Tailor-Made Top Tip: The two Wright houses are open to the public for guided tours, which can be booked online. The park also offers overnight accommodation in the four houses.




New York


Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum


The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is a museum of modern and contemporary art located on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. It is famous for its iconic spiral ramp, which winds its way up through the building, allowing visitors to view the art from a variety of angles. The building is made of concrete and glass, and it is considered to be one of the most important examples of modern architecture in the world.


Visiting Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

The Guggenheim Museum's collection includes works by Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, and other masters of modern art. The museum also hosts a variety of temporary exhibitions throughout the year.


Visiting Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Tailor-Made Top Tip: Purchase your timed ticket online. If you have a New York CityPass, a Go City New York Explorer Pass, New York Attraction Pass or New York Pass, you will be able to receive a discount.


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Los Angeles


Hollyhock House


Hollyhock House is located in the East Hollywood neighbourhood and was commissioned by Aline Barnsdall, a wealthy oil heiress. Built between 1919 and 1921, the house is named after the hollyhock flowers that surround it.


Visiting Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture
Hollyhock House

Hollyhock House is also notable for its Mayan Revival influences. Wright himself cited the ancient Maya as an inspiration for the design. The house is made of concrete, steel, and glass, and it features a series of interconnected terraces that create a sense of openness and flow. The house is also decorated with stylized hollyhock motifs.


Visiting Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture
Hollyhock House

Hollyhock House was originally intended to be the center of a larger arts and education complex. However, Barnsdall fell out with Wright in 1921, reportedly firing the architect, and the ultimate plans for Barnsdall Park were unrealised.


Visiting Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture
Hollyhock House and the Hollywood Sign

Tailor-Made Top Tip: Tickets need to be booked in advance. The tours are self-guided, but I found that the docents were very forthcoming with helpful information as I walked round. Please note that the house is only open from Thursday to Saturday.




Ennis House


The Ennis House is located in the Los Feliz neighbourhood and was commissioned by Charles and Mabel Ennis, a wealthy couple who owned a local men's clothing store. The house was built between 1923 and 1924.


Visiting Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture
Ennis House

The Ennis House is a striking example of Wright's textile block style of architecture. The house is made of over 27,000 interlocking concrete blocks, which are decorated with a Mayan Revival motif. It’s unique look has led to the house being used in many films and tv series, like Blade Runner, Beverly Hills Cop II, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.


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Visiting Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture
Ennis House

Tailor-Made Top Tip: Unfortunately, Ennis House is not open to the public, but the large frontage is visible from the street. There are a number of other private Wright designed houses around Hollywood and LA which can also be inspected from the street, such as the John Storer House, the Samuel Freeman House and the Samuel Novarro House.