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America’s Architect: Richland County Impact

Frank Lloyd Wright x1890 is America’s most celebrate architects, but he made his mark with designs all over the world.

Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Historical Society, 26559.

His is a story of inspiration and evolution. As a child, Frank Lloyd Wright x1890 played for hours with a gift from his mother: a set of smooth, geometric blocks that captivated the gifted 20th-century architect that he would become.

Born in 1867 to Welsh parents in Richland Center, Wisconsin, Wright and his family moved to Madison when he was 12. He was forever influenced by Richland County, describing “the modeling of the hills, the weaving and fabric that clings to them, the look of it all in tender green or covered with snow or in full glow of summer that bursts into the glorious blaze of autumn.”

Wright studied civil engineering at the University of Wisconsin–Madison for several terms before he was drawn to the architectural creativity emerging from Chicago. After working as a draftsman, he soon developed his own style, “organic architecture” that seamlessly melded built environments with nature. In time, his Prairie School designs featured signature elements, including horizontal lines, ribbons of windows, continuous interior spaces, and materials such as stone, wood, and glass.

“I believe in God, only I spell it Nature.”

He created the Taliesin Fellowship in Spring Green, Wisconsin, to train others in his aesthetic view, which emphasized the simple over the decorative and was soon regarded as uniquely American.

“I believe in God, only I spell it Nature,” he once said.

During his remarkable — and eccentric — career, Wright designed more than 1,000 private homes and public spaces, including the SC Johnson Administration Building in Racine, Madison’s Monona Terrace, the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, and New York’s Guggenheim Museum. More than one-third of his buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Wright died in 1959 in Phoenix, Arizona. In 1991, the American Institute of Architects named him the greatest American architect of all time.

 Thank you, Richland County, for Frank Lloyd Wright — and for brilliant innovation and a uniquely American architecture.

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