Frank Lloyd Wright is perhaps the greatest American architect of all time. Best known for his Prarie Style and Usonian homes, Wright designed more than 500 realized structures, including homes, offices, churches and museums. Using LEGO as a medium, dozens of great builders have recreated the best works of Wright. Ranging in a variety of scale and style, the LEGO replicas do a great justice in communicating the spirit of his architecture and the expression of his visions.
The Unity Temple is one of the earliest public buildings in the United States to feature exposed concrete, and the last surviving building from Wright’s Prairie Period. In recounting his experiences with Unity Temple, he stated that this design was the first time he ever realized that the real heart of a building is its space, not its walls. Wright described the building as “my contribution to modern architecture.”
Guggenheim Museum (1959)
The Guggenheim Museum features a spiral design recalled a nautilus shell, with continuous spaces flowing freely one into another. Wright’s plan was for the museum guests to ride to the top of the building by elevator, to descend at a leisurely pace along the gentle slope of a continuous ramp, called an inverted “ziggurat“, because it resembled the steep steps on the ziggurats built in ancient Mesopotamia. The open rotunda allows viewers to see several bays of work on different levels simultaneously, interact with guests on other levels, and to view the atrium of the building as the last work of art.
Fallingwater stands as one of Wright’s greatest masterpieces both for its dynamism and for its integration with the striking natural surroundings. This organically designed private residence was intended to be a nature retreat for its owners. The house is well-known for its connection to the site; it is built on top of an active waterfall which flows beneath the house. Wright’s passion for Japanese architecture was strongly reflected in the design of Fallingwater, particularly in the interpenetrating exterior and interior spaces and the strong emphasis placed on harmony between man and nature.
Masieri Memorial (1952, unbuilt)
Wright designed a four-story residence and library for architecture students at the Istituto Universario di Architettura di Venezia (IUAV), to be built on the Grand Canal in Venice. Traditionalists and modernists argued whether contemporary architecture was appropriate for the historic waterway through Venice. City officials in Venice ultimately rejected the project due to the design being aesthetically incompatible with the surrounding context.
McBean House (1957)
The McBean House stands out due to its three levels and a very vertical appearance. The house features 150 windows; a row just beneath the roof runs across the entire house, cascading to a wall of windows that spans the three levels. From the outside, the windows give the appearance of one large room, another space-enhancing trick in Wright’s repertoire.
Dana-Thomas House (1904)
Constructed between 1902 and 1904, the spectacular brick house was the largest and 72nd building designed by Wright to that time. The home contains more than 100 pieces of original Wright furniture, 250 examples of art glass doors and windows, and more than 100 art glass light fixtures. Wright’s first “blank check” commission, the home has 35 rooms in the 12,000 square feet of living space which includes 3 main levels and 16 varying levels in all.
SC Johnson Research Tower (1939)
All 15 floors of the Research Tower are supported by the “taproot” core, much like a tree supports its branches. Of the 15 floors, six are square, with circular mezzanine floors above them, with one additional square floor on the second level. More than 7,000 Pyrex glass tubes serve as its windows, with the exterior lined with bands of more than 22,000 bricks, featuring the signature Wright/SC Johnson color, “Cherokee Red.”
Taliesin West (1937)
Taliesin West is not only a symbol of Wright’s versatility and influential expansion throughout the United States, but it marks a moment in his career where context and vernacular begin to integrate into Wright’s formulated Prairie Style. The structures are built of the rocks and sand of the Sonoran Desert and employs low level, horizontal planes that keep the house and studio low to the ground to insure effective natural ventilation and protection and shade from the intense desert sun. Completed between 1937 – 1959, Taliesin West was the winter home to Wright and his wife’s summer home, Taliesin, in Spring Green, Wisconsin in addition to being Wright’s workshop and school for his apprentices.
Hardy House (1905)
Perched on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan, the Hardy House is built vertically up and down the hillside, and has a partial basement. The design of the seven art glass windows on the first floor facing the street is an abstraction of the house’s floor plan. This house demonstrates Wright’s desire to build right up to the land line, with the entryway at the line of the sidewalk.
Price Tower (1956)
Wright called Price Tower, his only build skyscraper, the ” tree that escaped the crowded forest” when he completed it for the H.C. Price International Pipeline Company in 1956. None of the exterior walls are structural, but are merely screens resting on the horizontal cantilevered floors. The interior rooms of the Price Tower are unusual in design in that they are predominately triangular in shape.
Gordon House (1963)
The Gordon House proved to be Wright’s final Usonian design before he passed away. In 2001, the house was meticulously deconstructed, cut into pieces, and moved approximately 24 miles south where it was re-assembled, restored and opened to the public in the Spring of 2002. Usonian design was characterized by use of inexpensive, mass-produced, local materials and an open floor plan that encouraged social gatherings. The cinder block, Western red cedar, 2100-square foot building, sits low to the ground, with a definite horizontal feeling so typical in Wright designs.
Beth Sholom Congregation (1959)
The design is considered by critics to be the “most expressive” design drafted in Wright’s career for any house of worship. With its steeply inclined walls of translucent fiberglass and plastic projecting skyward like a “luminous Mount Sinai” (Wright’s own description), it has been cited as an example of the Mayan Revival architecture style. During the day, the interior is lit by natural light entering through the translucent walls overhead. At night, the entire building glows from interior artificial lighting.
Robie House (1909)
At the close of the 19th century, Wright broke down old architectural barriers; something sleeker, more open and flowing, more free, and more distinctly American. Wright created a residential design with a horizontal roofline, large overhanging eaves, continuous ribbons of windows, a wide-open living space at its center and incorporation of natural materials that mimic them midwestern landscape.
Boomer Residence (1953)
Two stories in height with an equilateral parallelogram footprint and built around a central chimney flue, the Boomer home was designed as what Wright called a “mountain cottage”. Built of redwood and native stone, the sweeping roofline is Boomer’s most iconic feature. The fish pond in the courtyard is the only alteration in decades; the home has been virtually frozen in time since the day it was built.
Wingspread is the residence designed for the Herbert Fisk Johnson family, financier of the SC Johnson Research Tower. Shaped like a four-winged pinwheel, the 14,000-square-foot house balances grand spaces for social gatherings in the Great Hall with smaller, more intimate spaces in the bedroom wings.
Article contributions by Mazie Wellington.