Celebrating Frank Lloyd Wright’s Birthday

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Wright’s Gordon House is located in Silverton, Oregon.

Today, June 8, is Frank Lloyd Wright’s birthday. He was born in Wisconsin in 1867, which should remind you how far ahead of his time Wright was. I couldn’t resist to do a piece on Frank Lloyd Wright today, but I will veer away from his most famous and elaborate works. Sure, my first experience with Wright was discovering Fallingwater in a 4th grade art class. But it was my time at the Gordon House, during a University of Oregon Preservation Field School, that I really began to appreciate Wright’s work. Every day I spent with the house–sanding the ceiling, taking apart windows to replace pieces, discussing how to solve a tilting porch–I noticed more of the details and attributes that make the spaces what they are.

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Wright did not explain his pattern choice but I came to think of it as echoing the dappled shadows of the oak trees.

What I loved most in getting to know the Gordon house was the sunlight. Wright made many interesting decisions with windows: many of his more expensive houses have art glass designed especially for them. His own home and studio in Oak Park has diamond panes, reflecting his idea that windows could be part of the architecture and should not be glaring boxes seemingly placed at random when viewed from the exterior. In his less expensive houses, like the Gordon House, Wright designed patterned windows by designing wood cuts that were placed on both sides of plates of glass (less expensive than art glass). Wright also designed corner windows (you can can watch a short video of him talking about corner windows here). The Gordon House has an example of the corner window as doors: the corner opens out onto a porch in such a way that the walls literally disappear.

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Walls disappear when these rows of glass doors are opened.

And really, both literally and figuratively, Frank Lloyd Wright succeeded in breaking free from the boxy architecture that preceded him. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to find a Frank Lloyd Wright house (or other building!) near you. They can be found across the United States and beyond, and you never know what you might learn from being in these carefully designed spaces.

Frank Lloyd Wright designed his spaces to tell you how to live: his bedroom ceilings, for example, are often very low to encourage you to leave the bedroom (no lounging around in bed in a Wright house!). Would you want to live in a Frank Lloyd Wright house?

Intrigued? Check out my previous posts on Frank Lloyd Wright: FLW’s residential development of Ravine Bluffs, Indiana’s Samara (now a National Landmark), and a beautiful art glass window I spotted in Glencoe. And what’s that? Yes, I quoted Frank Lloyd Wright in my very first blog post!

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Rows of double doors line both sides of the living room, making this the best indoor-outdoor space, weather providing.
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The shadows and sunlight created by the roof and window patterns as well as the surrounding oaks: my favorite thing about the Gordon House.
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6 thoughts on “Celebrating Frank Lloyd Wright’s Birthday

  1. I have never visited a Wright house. Frankly his architecture has never appealed to me, although it is amazing to think about what he did given the era he lived in. I am intrigued now to see one of his homes – the details you describe may persuade me to become a fan 🙂

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    1. I totally understand where you’re coming from! I don’t always like his architecture but the brilliance and thoroughness behind it is often stunning. I heard he once even designed a woman’s dress for the home-owner to wear in the space–it doesn’t get more thorough than that! : ) I definitely encourage FLW visits. Such incredible work.

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  2. […] I had the chance to attend a Midcentury Modern field study while at the Past Forward Conference in Houston just before Thanksgiving (perhaps you saw some glimpses of my trip!). What caught my eye? Scroll on to see some of the Midcentury Modern details that couldn’t escape my camera lens. (Still mystified by Midcentury? Read more on how I came to love Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture, here.) […]

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