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Frank Lloyd Wright, whose 145th birth anniversary will be celebrated on June 8, was one of America’s most acclaimed architects. The father of ‘organic architecture’, Wright believed in creating spaces that not only followed the forms of nature but were more natural than nature itself. For him, a building “should appear to grow easily from its site”; he was partial to open spaces with plenty of foliage and preferred using ‘natural’ colours such as beige and green.

Over a career that spanned 70 years, Wright designed 1,141 buildings; of these 532 were constructed and 409 are still standing.

Wright had a distinctive style which was dubbed ‘organic architecture’ and is reflected in all his work. However, the finest example of this style is a house called Fallingwater (1935), which is also known as Kauffman House. Located in rural south-western Pennsylvania, Fallingwater is considered to be one of the greatest masterpieces of the 20th century; it was built over a waterfall and the house looks like it is part of it.

Another fine example of Wright’s organic architecture is the Johnson Wax Building (1933-1936) in Racine, Wisconsin. The ceiling is held up with beamless ‘lily pad’ columns that were considered a structural marvel when it was built and remains an architectural masterpiece.

Wright also developed the ‘prairie style’ of residential architecture which set the precedent for what is known today as the open floor plan, where rooms, other than private quarters, flow into each other. It is a trend that is gaining momentum in Pakistan and it all began with the private home Wright designed in Chicago’s Oak Park neighbourhood. Soon, all his residential designs carried the trademark ‘prairie style’. Wright’s own homes, Taliesin (1911-1925) and later Taliesin West (which currently houses the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation), are designed in the same style.

During his prolific career, Wright designed all kinds of buildings ranging from private homes to churches, synagogues and even a hotel in China, but his magnum opus is his final project. Completed six months after his death, Wright’s Solomon R Guggenheim Museum in New York is undoubtedly one of 20th century’s greatest architectural wonders.

– Adil Kerai

First published in the Real Estate Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on June 3, 2012.

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