The Romantic And Progressive Aspects Of Frank

Lloyd Wright Essay, Research Paper Frank Lloyd Wright’s favorite occupation on a Sunday afternoon was to rearrange the furniture in his Oak Park house; photographs of these experiments still exist today. They show that during his first six years there, his living room, for instance, was filled with an eclectic assortment of furniture, ferns, oriental rugs, draped shawls and curtains?all of which demonstrated the influence of the Aesthetic Movement on his taste.

Lloyd Wright Essay, Research Paper

Frank Lloyd Wright’s favorite occupation on a Sunday afternoon was to rearrange the furniture in his Oak Park house; photographs of these experiments still exist today. They show that during his first six years there, his living room, for instance, was filled with an eclectic assortment of furniture, ferns, oriental rugs, draped shawls and curtains?all of which demonstrated the influence of the Aesthetic Movement on his taste.

Six years later, though, Wright had redesigned his dining room and the transformation was drastic. Gone were the decorations, the textile patterns and the subtle effects of draped shawls and curtains, and in their place was a severely simplified decor emphasizing the horizontal, by means of wooden moldings running around the room, and the vertical, with tall chairbacks composed of slats of wood that were his own design. The oak floor was bare, and the only decorative elements in the room came from the leaded-glass windows in a pattern abstracted from a flower, a perforated screen, and vases of flowers. By 1895, in other words, Wright’s taste had evolved from the consciously artistic toward a concept that was unified, simplistic, and uncompromising.

1895 is the earliest date one can give to this clear evidence of his departure from the Aesthetic to the Romantic Movement. The Romantic Period could be summed up as the belief that art exists to function as art. This idea became Wright’s starting point for the belief that emotion, true feeling and thought were all included in concepts of what was beautiful. That idea, as Thoreau would write, “the perception of beauty is a moral test,” was seized upon by Wright as he advanced the belief that man was a part of nature, not separate from it, and as he sought to teach, through his architecture, a moral response to beauty based on an awareness of nature. For the rest of his life, Wright would wrestle with the goal of the Romantic Period?to discover the secret that gave “character” to the trees, and the way in which architecture ought to be inspired by nature.

When Wright began independent practice in Chicago, he was just one of a number of architects, most of them younger men with reputations unmade, who saw the possibilities offered by the new movement, which was very much Romantic in nature. The emphasis by the British on the cottage and manor presented new possibilities for architects struggling to find an alternative to the French chateaux, Italian palazzi, and even the beaux-arts classicism that was favorable with the rich. In returning to humbler, more natural styles notable for their simplicity, architects such as Wright understood the need for an American architecture that was home-grown, an architecture that they all were competing to invent.

For instance, in works such as Robie House and his Oak Park house, Wright saw the fireplace as a vital and symbolic feature?the hearth to warm the home at the center of life, the flame as the soul of the house?which was, again, an essentially Romantic view. Similarly, a Romantic theme was the idea of a return to nature, another idea Wright used in his designs for Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob, two homes meant to fit within their natural context without disturbing the surrounding environment.

The Progressive movement was also extremely influential on Wright’s design. This socialist philosophy was adopted by Wright, as he had realized that “a city is not just an arrangement of roads, buildings, and spaces, it is a society in action…The city is a process, rather than a form.” This idea was apparent in Broadacre City, Wright’s design for a city of the future in which every family had one acre of land.

Just as the concept of the city itself needed to be redefined in the context of a reformed society so, too, the idea of the house needed revision to reflect the needs of the Progressive Era. During this period, Wright was working intensively on his idea for a new kind of lowcost dwellings that he called the Usonian house, his attempt to bring designs of beauty and humanity within the range of the rising number of middle class citizens in the country. The term Usonian came to symbolize for Wright an idealized way of living in a landscape, a vision in miniature of what a perfectly designed house could be, despite the severe constraints on size and shortage, at first, of materials and, later, in the face of continually rising costs. The modern house might be modest by Oak Park standards but would remain true to his concept of the Prairie house with its elongated one-floor plan and its respectful relationship to its site. To appease the middle class homeowners, though, Wright made sure that the Usonian house was built with every possible labor and money-saving shortcut that his ingenuity could devise. But, they still were Wright designed, so they retained all the essential attributes: the same use of space, the same quality of spatial surprise, the same aesthetic awareness, and the same meticulous attention to the natural setting. The designs for the Willey, Hoult and Lusk houses were early experiments with the Usonian idea. With the Jacobs’ house, though, Wright had accomplished his goal. Working with a budget of only $5,500 on a small suburban lot, Wright placed this prototype of the “house for a new age” flush with the street and provided 1,500 square feet of living space.

Frank Lloyd Wright was, in every aspect, an architect of the times. His own beliefs closely resembled those of our maturing nation, and in the regard, it is only logical that he was to become the nation’s most admired and remembered architect. Not just because he was able to build masterpieces, but because his works were accessible by the general public?the same public that he related with, the same public that he was once a part of.