When it comes to prolific American architects, no one has left as much of an imprint as Frank Lloyd Wright. He may have passed on over half a century ago, but the buildings he designed, the ideas he dared to dream up, and the innovative aesthetic he pioneered are still very relevant to this day.
There's much more to the man than radical houses built on waterfalls, and the Guggenheim. In fact, here are 10 things you may not have known about the man behind the blueprints.
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Wright was constantly on the brink of financial ruin, due in large part to reckless spending habits to support his finer tastes, including expensive suits and fast cars (no judgment here!). To stay afloat through the Great Depression, he diversified his skills, focusing on teaching and writing, eventually publishing over 20 books.
2. Only half of what he designed was built.
Throughout his career, he designed upwards of 1,000 projects, though only 532 were completed—including Taliesin West pictured above—at the time of his death.
3. He was an early advocate of green design.
In his 1954 book The Natural House, he describes creating a green roof to outfit a house for his son, laying the groundwork for the sustainable design movement so prevalent today. Not only that, but many of his designs revolved around the core principle that design should become an extension of its natural surroundings.
4. He was an outsider.
Despite his incredible success and notoriety, he strongly believed in individualism and did not affiliate with the American Institute of Architects, even calling it "a harbor of refuge for the incompetent" and "a form of refined gangsterism". Burrrrrrrrn!
Outlined in his 1956 book A Testament, The Mile High Illinois would have stood... a mile high, and would still be the world's tallest building. If realized, it would have provided 18 million square feet across 528 floors, and Wright maintained that it could accommodate over 100,000 people, along with parking for 15,000 cars and 150 helicopters. Suck on that, Burj Khalifa.
6. He left his mark on other continents, too.
Although his contributions to American architecture are by far his greatest, he also spent six years of his professional life in Japan working on the Imperial Hotel Tokyo project, pictured above. Prior to that he spent several years touring Europe, lecturing and working, accompanied by his longtime mistress.
7. He was predestined to be a famous architect.
According to a 1998 biography, when his mother was pregnant she declared that he'd grow up to build beautiful buildings, even decorating the nursery with engravings of English cathedrals to inspire him.
8. He was instrumental to the invention of Lincoln Logs.
In 1920, his son Jon patented the now-iconic children's toy, modeling the interlocking kits after the sort of construction methods used in his father’s ambitious Imperial Hotel project, which he helped work on.
9. He likened his trade to that of a classical composer.
Not only was he a huge fan of classical music, but considered architecture to be like what Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven did, composing entire symphonies out of just a few notes. Humility is overrated, after all.
10. The Guggenheim was his first-ever building in New York City.
Despite his fame, he didn't get the commission for this crown jewel until late in his career. Wright worked on it for 16 years, from 1946 up until his death in 1959. In the interim, he also designed a Mercedes Showroom on Park avenue and an iconic home on Staten Island.
Joe McGauley is a senior editor at Supercompressor. He has never designed a building nor composed a symphony. Yet.