Science Milestones: The Lesser Known Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright - Eva Varga

June 1, 20142

Born on June 8, 1867 Frank Lloyd Wright is not only one of the world’s greatest architects, but also the most prolific. He was controversial. He was inspiring. He was a visionary. A writer, an art collector, a philosopher. To honor Wright, I have put together a mini-unit to introduce students to his architectural style and the science of architecture. 


WrightFrank Lloyd Wright spent more than 70 years creating designs that revolutionized the art and architecture of the 20th century.  He designed 1141 works – including houses, offices, churches, schools, libraries, bridges, museums, and many other building types. Of the total, 532 resulted in completed works, 409 of which still stand.

Whether people are fully conscious of this or not, they actually derive countenance and sustenance from the ‘atmosphere’ of the things they live in or with They are rooted in them just as a plant is in the soil in which it is planted.

His career is generally divided into three periods. and he is widely known for four styles of building. His work during the first period (1893 – World War I) was primarily located in the Midwest and brought forth a new American architectural style – the Prairie Style; born out of his belief that we needed fewer, larger rooms which flowed more easily, his antithesis to the rigid Victorian era architecture. These long buildings stretched out along the flat Midwestern landscape, their horizontal orientation emphasized with bands of windows and spare ornamentation.  Low-pitched roofs with broad eaves served to relate them to the grown, creating shelter in the open.

Between World War I and the mid-1930s, Wright is noted for his commission of Tokyo’s Imperial House and his series of textile block houses in California, hence the Textile Style was born.  This later led way to the Organic Style and then the Usonian Style. His belief that buildings should be made from the land and benefit the land inspired most of his work. These beliefs, avant garde for his time, are still practiced and revered today. He advised his apprentices to,

… study nature, love nature, stay close to nature.  It will never fail you.

The kids and I have had the opportunity to see two of Wright’s works in person, the Gordon House in Silverton, Oregon and the Pilgrim Congregational Church in Redding, California. Sadly, Wright passed away before he saw either of these two buildings constructed.

franklloydwrightThe 88-year-old Wright designed the Gordon Housecommissioned by Conrad and Evelyn Gordon, in his Usonian style in 1957 for the couple’s sprawling farmland acreage that overlooked the Willamette River in Silverton about 30 minutes south of Portland. It wouldn’t be until several years later that the home would actually be built (1964). The Gordon House proved to be Wright’s final Usonian design.

The Pilgrim Congregational Church was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1958. Sadly however, due to lack of funds, the church was able only to construct a small portion of Wright’s original grand design back in the early 1960s. Built by the church members themselves, the building’s realized section represents only about 20% of the proposed structure. An unusual feature is his use of triangles (which symbolizes the Trinity) in the structure of the church.

Bring it Home

Math, science, art, writing, research, history, and project management are all subjects easily integrated into the study of architecture. Depending upon the age and interest of your child, you may wish to put together a comprehensive architectural unit study. Alternatively, younger students may enjoy a simpler approach, reading a short biography of Wright and marveling at photographs of his completed works. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • If possible, visit a site or building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and/or his apprentices.
  • Learn architecture concepts and the process of designing with the free Architect Studio 3D and have fun designing a Wright-style house under the watchful eye of America’s most famous architect.
  • Design a home inspired by nature and build a 3D model of your design.
  • Explore, create and have fun with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation’s Summer Art and Architecture Camps. The foundation offers students a living experience of Frank Lloyd Wright’s body of work through classes, workshops and special camps, with a focus on Frank Lloyd Wright, architecture, and the arts.

Science Milestones

Visit my Science Milestones page to learn more about scientists whose discoveries and advancements have made a significant difference in our lives or who have advanced our understanding of the world around us.

To find out about more people born in June hop on over to iHomeschool Network’s June birthdays page.


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