Essential Books on Frank Lloyd Wright
There are countless books on Frank Lloyd Wright, and it comes with good reason, he was an American architect who designed more than 1,000 structures over a creative period of 70 years and played a key role in the architectural movements of the twentieth century.
“The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes. If you foolishly ignore beauty, you will soon find yourself without it. Your life will be impoverished. But if you invest in beauty, it will remain with you all the days of your life,” he remarked.
In order to get to the bottom of what inspired one of America’s most consequential figures to the height of his craft, we’ve compiled a list of the 10 best books on Frank Lloyd Wright.
Many Masks: A Life of Frank Lloyd Wright by Brendan Gill
Frank Lloyd Wright is often described as the greatest of American architects. His works – among them Taliesin North, Taliesin West, Fallingwater, the Johnson Wax buildings, the Guggenheim Museum – earned him a good measure of his fame, but his flamboyant personal life earned him the rest.
Brendan Gill, a personal friend of Wright and his family, gives us not only the fullest, fairest, and most entertaining account of Wright to date, but also strips away the many masks the architect tirelessly constructed to fascinate his admirers and mislead his detractors. Enriched by hitherto unpublished letters and 300 photographs and drawings, this definitive biography makes Wright, in all his creativity, crankiness, and zest, fairly leap from its pages.
The Fellowship by Roger Friedland
Frank Lloyd Wright was renowned during his life not only as an architectural genius but also as a subject of controversy – from his radical design innovations to his turbulent private life, including a notorious mass murder that occurred at his Wisconsin estate, Taliesin, in 1914. But the estate also gave rise to one of the most fascinating and provocative experiments in American cultural history: the Taliesin Fellowship, an extraordinary architectural colony where Wright trained hundreds of devoted apprentices and where all of his late masterpieces – Fallingwater, Johnson Wax, the Guggenheim Museum – were born.
Drawing on hundreds of new and unpublished interviews and countless unseen documents from the Wright archives, The Fellowship is an unforgettable story of genius and ego, sex and violence, mysticism and utopianism. Epic in scope yet intimate in its detail, it is a stunning true account of how an idealistic community devolved into a kind of fiefdom where young apprentices were both inspired and manipulated, often at a staggering personal cost, by the architect and his imperious wife, Olgivanna Hinzenberg, along with her spiritual master, the legendary Greek-Armenian mystic Georgi Gurdjieff. A magisterial work of biography, it will forever change how we think about Frank Lloyd Wright and his world.
Death in a Prairie House by William R. Drennan
The most pivotal and yet least understood event of Frank Lloyd Wright’s celebrated life involves the brutal murders in 1914 of seven adults and children dear to the architect and the destruction by fire of Taliesin, his landmark residence, near Spring Green, Wisconsin. Unaccountably, the details of that shocking crime have been largely ignored by Wright’s legion of biographers – a historical and cultural gap that is finally addressed in William Drennan’s exhaustively researched Death in a Prairie House.
In response to the scandal generated by his open affair with the proto-feminist and free love advocate Mamah Borthwick Cheney, Wright had begun to build Taliesin as a refuge and “love cottage” for himself and his mistress (both married at the time to others).
Conceived as the apotheosis of Wright’s prairie house style, the original Taliesin would stand in all its isolated glory for only a few months before the bloody slayings that rocked the nation and reduced the structure itself to a smoking hull.
Supplying both a gripping mystery story and an authoritative portrait of the artist as a young man, Drennan wades through the myths surrounding Wright and the massacre, casting fresh light on the formulation of Wright’s architectural ideology and the cataclysmic effects that the Taliesin murders exerted on the fabled architect and on his subsequent designs.
F.L. Wright by Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer
Wright’s work is distinguished by its harmony with humanity and its environment, a philosophy he called organic architecture, and which found its paradigm at Fallingwater, a house in rural Pennsylvania, cited by the American Institute of Architects as “the best all-time work of American architecture.” Wright also made a particular mark with his use of industrial materials, and by the simple L or T plan of his Prairie House which became a model for rural architecture across America.
Exploring Wright’s aspirations to augment American society through architecture, this book offers a concise introduction to his at-once technological and Romantic response to the practical challenges of middle-class Americans.
Plagued by Fire by Paul Hendrickson
Frank Lloyd Wright has long been known as both a supreme artist and an insufferable egotist who held in contempt almost everything aside from his own genius as an architect. But in this masterly work, we discover a man dogged by traumas, racked by lies, and stifled by the myths he wove around himself: a man aware of the choices he made, and of their costs.
This is the Wright who was haunted by his father, about whom he told the greatest lie of his life. And this is the Wright of many other overlooked aspects of his story: his close, and perhaps romantic, relationship with friend and early mentor Cecil Corwin; the connection between the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 and the murder of his mistress, her two children and four others at his beloved Wisconsin home by a servant gone mad; and the eerie, unmistakable role of fires in his eventful life.
This necessary installment to the ever-growing index of books on Frank Lloyd Wright helps us form a deep and more human understanding of the man and a fresh appreciation of his monumental artistic achievements.
An Organic Architecture by Frank Lloyd Wright
In May 1939, the celebrated American architect Frank Lloyd Wright visited London and gave four lectures at the Royal Institute of British Architects. The meetings were hailed at the time as the most remarkable events of recent architectural affairs in England, and the lectures were published as An Organic Architecture in September 1939 by Lund Humphries.
In the lectures, Frank Lloyd Wright covers a wide range of topics including his Usonian houses, his visions for the future of cities both in North America and elsewhere, particularly in Britain, Taliesin and the Johnson Waxworks factory, the then-imminent Second World War, and the “Future.” In doing so, his charismatic, flamboyant character leaps to life from the pages, not to mention his hugely creative intelligence, making these essays very enjoyable and entertaining.
Frank Lloyd Wright: The Houses by Alan Weintraub
Frank Lloyd Wright is not only synonymous with architecture, his name is also synonymous with the American house in the twentieth century. In particular, his residential work has been the subject of continuing interest and controversy. Wright’s Fallingwater (1935), the seminal masterpiece perched over a waterfall deep in the Pennsylvania highlands, is perhaps the best-known private house in the history of the world. In fact, Wright’s houses – from his Prairie-style Robie House (1906) in Chicago, to the Storer (1923) and Freeman (1923) houses in Los Angeles, and Taliesen West (1937) in the Arizona desert – are all touchstones of modern architecture.
For the first time, all 289 extant houses are shown here in exquisite color photographs. Along with Weintraub’s stunning photos and a selection of floor plans and archival images, the book includes text and essays by several leading Wright scholars. Frank Lloyd Wright: The Houses is an event of great importance and a major contribution to the literature on this titan of modern architecture.
Frank Lloyd Wright: A Biography by Meryle Secrest
This gem among books on Frank Lloyd Wright focuses on his family history, personal adventures, and colorful friends and family. Secrest had unprecedented access to an archive of over one hundred thousand of Wright’s letters, photographs, drawings, and books. She also interviewed surviving devotees, students, and relatives. The result is an explicit portrait of both the genius architect and the provocative con man.
The Urbanism of Frank Lloyd Wright by Neil Levine
This is the first book devoted to Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs for remaking the modern city. Stunningly comprehensive, The Urbanism of Frank Lloyd Wright presents a radically new interpretation of the architect’s work and offers new and important perspectives on the history of modernism. Neil Levine places Wright’s projects, produced over more than fifty years, within their historical, cultural, and physical contexts, while relating them to the theory and practice of urbanism as it evolved over the twentieth century.
Levine overturns the conventional view of Wright as an architect who deplored the city and whose urban vision was limited to a utopian plan for a network of agrarian communities he called Broadacre City. Rather, Levine reveals Wright’s larger, more varied, interesting, and complex urbanism, demonstrated across the span of his lengthy career.
Beginning with Wright’s plans from the late 1890s through the early 1910s for reforming residential urban neighborhoods, mainly in Chicago, and continuing through projects from the 1920s through the 1950s for commercial, mixed-use, civic, and cultural centers for Chicago, Madison, Washington, Pittsburgh, and Baghdad, Levine demonstrates Wright’s place among the leading contributors to the creation of the modern city. Wright’s often spectacular designs are shown to be those of an innovative precursor and creative participant in the world of ideas that shaped the modern metropolis.
Frank Lloyd Wright: A Life by Ada Louise Huxtable
Renowned architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable’s biography Frank Lloyd Wright looks at the architect and the man, from his tumultuous personal life to his long career as a master builder. Along the way she introduces Wright’s masterpieces, from the tranquil Fallingwater to Taliesin, rebuilt after tragedy and murder – not only exploring the mind of the man who drew the blueprints but also delving into the very heart of the medium, which he changed forever.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater by Donald Hoffman
Organic form was Frank Lloyd Wright’s credo, and its most splendid embodiment is Fallingwater, designed and built for the Pittsburgh merchant Edgar Kaufmann in the 1930s. The private dwelling, which juts directly over a waterfall at Bear Run in western Pennsylvania, is the boldest and most personal architectural statement of Wright’s mature years.
More than 100 photographs depict in both panoramic and intimate detail Fallingwater’s site, every phase of its construction, and its distinctive interior and exterior detailing. The superb text tells the story in full, from the earliest notions of the project, through heated confrontations over issues of aesthetics and structure, to its completion. In every aspect, this carefully researched book offers readers an extremely rare insider’s view of how one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites came into being.
The Prairie School by H. Allen Brooks
Inspired by Louis Sullivan and given guidance and prominence by Frank Lloyd Wright, the members of the movement sought to achieve a fresh architectural expression. Their designs were characterized by precise, angular forms and highly sophisticated interior arrangements – an approach that proved immensely significant in residential architecture.
H. Allen Brooks discusses the entire phenomenon of the Prairie School – not just the masters but also the work of their contemporaries. Drawing on unpublished material and original documentation as well as on interviews, he assesses each architect’s contribution and traces the course of the movement itself – how and why it came into existence, what it achieved, and what caused its abrupt end.
The Essential Frank Lloyd Wright; edited by Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer
He was the most iconoclastic of architects, and at the height of his career, his output of writings about architecture was as prolific and visionary as his architecture itself. Frank Lloyd Wright pioneered a bold new kind of architecture, one in which the spirit of modern man truly “lived in his buildings.” The Essential Frank Lloyd Wright is a one-volume compendium of Wright’s most critically important – and personally revealing – writings on every conceivable aspect of his craft.
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