Starchitect Spotlight: Frank Lloyd Wright

We’re mapping the work of the masterminds—some famed, some lesser-known—whose works have shaped the L.A. cityscape.
Frank Lloyd Wright

Photograph courtesy

Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959)
Style: Early Modernist

“Tip the world over on its side,” Frank Lloyd Wright once said, “and everything loose will land in Los Angeles.” If by “everything loose” he meant an eclectic jumble of architectural masterpieces—including a number of his own—he was dead on. Wright may have been Midwestern, but he sure knew how to adapt his organic approach to architecture to the West Coast. The newly-restored Hollyhock House draws consistent crowds, and the Ennis House is a prime example of the textile block technique that characterized Wright’s California work. His projects here, in true Mayan revival style, have a monumental feel, and they’re carefully adorned with repetitive motifs.

Wright was born in Richland Center, Wisconsin near his mother’s hometown of Spring Green. He briefly attended the University of Wisconsin—Madison before dropping out to work full time for renowned architect Joseph Silsbee, known for his “form follows function” approach to architecture, a mentality that informed Wright’s own work. The two men parted ways in 1893 (Wright had done some work on the side, to Silsbee’s ire), and Wright set out on his own. Eventually, with considerable direction from his (third) wife, Olgivanna, he gathered around him a collective of students and teachers, forming the Taliesin Fellowship, a nontraditional architecture school with an emphasis on learning by doing: gardening, caring for livestock, cooking, and practicing the fine arts, as well as quarrying the stone and cutting the trees for building projects.

With over 1,000 designs to his name, Wright was productive up until his death, producing many of his best designs, including the Guggenheim museum in New York, in the later years of his life. His son, Lloyd, carried on his legacy, becoming a prominent architect in his own—shall we say—Wright.

The Hollyhock House
The Hollyhock House at Barnsdall Art Park

Photograph courtesy Stojakovic

• In 1914, a servant murdered Wright’s lover Mamah Borthwick and six other members of their household and  burned down the home, Taliesin, that Wright and designed for his family. Wright rebuilt the home, Taliesin II, in 1915, but ten years later it too burned down, this time due to an electrical mishap. Once again, Wright rebuilt it. Taliesin III still stands today.

• Wright spent seven years designing the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, finally completing it in 1922. He claimed it was earthquake proof, and, as if to prove his point, the building survived the Great Kanto Earthquake the following year, though not without damage.


Click the pink pins for images of Frank Lloyd Wright projects across the city. The other pins denote the work of architects from our Starchitect Spotlight archives. You can hide them in the dropdown menu on the left.