Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Art Nouveau and Frank Lloyd Wright

The development of Art Nouveau was a major factor in the change between neoclassic and modern architecture. It takes passed styles and mixes them with what was considered “new” during that time which was around the last decade of the 19th century to the first decade of the 20th century. This new style focused mainly around what could decorate the building and less of the building as a whole. This was accomplished using newer materials at that time; mainly iron (cast and wrought). 

Frank Lloyd Wright (1867 – 1959) was just one of the brilliant minds that adapted this style into his own design style. Wright was mainly known for designing homes, offices, churches, schools, skyscrapers, hotels, and museums; all of which he would commonly design the interior furnishings which accentuated his unique style.  He was considered one of the first architects to design and use interior finishing as part of the overall design. Wright’s elaborate attention to detail in connection to the rest of his designs is just one of the many ways he stands out among other architects. Throughout his career, was remembered for having a few inspirations, of which were Louis Sullivan, whom he considered to be his dear master, Nature, particularly shapes, forms, colors, and patterns of plant life, Music, and Japanese art and buildings.       

To explain just how Wright’s work changed over the period of Art Nouveau, I will give a few examples of homes he designed during that time. One of the first homes he designed was the Warren McArthur House located in Chicago, Illinois and built in 1892, just shortly after the start of Art Nouveau. This house was “described primarily as Dutch Colonial[i]. With influences from Sullivan and Joseph Silsbee, one of its characteristics that stand out the most is the gable roof. Towards the beginning of his career, Wright’s was influenced by a trend that was happening in which you would design a taller building in order to achieve more natural light. According to  Frank Lloyd Wright, Vertical Space, and the Chicago School's Quest for Light[ii]Their source lies in late-19th-century tall office buildings, where the need for natural light was crucial.”  

Warren McArthur House

This style is evident in most of his earlier works as is seen by the next example. The house below is the Walter H. Gale House which was located in Oak Park, Illinois and built in 1893. As is seen again, verticality overpowers this design by the gable roof which rises quite high from the top of the first floor windows. With more glazing than wall, Wright’s influence of gaining as much natural light as possible is quite evident. Wright also took an interest in working with brick. As is seen from the tower, he starts to experiment stacking brick in more ways than the traditional running bond.  

Walter H. Gale House

The next example is taken from his mid career when he starts to divert from the idea of verticality being the dominant aspect of a building and instead, heads into a more horizontal approach. The house below is the Ward Winfield Willits House which was located in Highland Park, Illinois and was built in 1901. As is clear of the image, there are no gable roofs but hip roofs which fade and spread out over the top of the structure and even extends outward passed the of the walls. The effect causes the building to “flatten” to the environment and grants a much more subtle appearance than the previous examples of verticality. This home offers a much more private and comfortable feeling with the wall wrapping around the front and deeply covered entry way that is invisible from the street.

Ward Winfield Willits House

When looking at who Wright may have been more influenced by between John Ruskin, Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, and Gottfried Semper, one of these men stands out more than the other two in relation to their impact on Wright. Gottfried Semper can be seen as having given the most influence on Wright’s ideals. Not only was Wright logically driven (i.e. using verticality to allow for more natural lighting) but he was also emotionally connected to most if not all his works, detailing the smallest finishing of the structure.  







[ii] Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Vol. 44, No. 1 (Mar., 1985), pp. 66-74

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