In July 2019, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee inscribed the 20th-century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, consisting of eight Frank Lloyd Wright-designed sites in the USA, to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
It’s the first time modern architecture destinations in the USA have been added – and quite rightly so.
Here are the eight cherished buildings…
1. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Completed in 1959, the conical white spiral of the Guggenheim Museum in New York is as famous as the artworks housed within it. Today, almost 60 years since its construction, the spiral ramp leading to a domed skylight is lined with some of the world’s most well-known artworks, and features ever-changing exhibitions. The original plans for the building included a 10-story tower behind the smaller rotunda; the tower was never realised, however the plan was revived in 1990 with an eight-story tower, which opened in 1992. A free audio guide and Guggenheim app gives visitors information about the exhibits and architecture. Visit guggenheim.org.
2. Herbert and Katherine Jacobs House, Madison, Wisconsin
Also known as Jacobs 1 or First Jacobs House, Herbert and Katherine Jacobs House was designed and constructed in 1936. The home, which is located in Wright’s hometown of Madison, Wisconsin, is regarded as one of the most famous applications of Wright’s Usonian concepts, and was completed as a single-story L-shaped house with two bedrooms. Wright believed that Usonian houses should relate to nature and be unimpeded by a foundation, porch, chimney or shrubbery, and be surrounded by space, open to the elements, with materials largely consisting of wood, stone and glass. Tours of the house must be scheduled in advance. Visit usonia1.com.
3. Fallingwater, Mill Run, Pennsylvania
Located southeast of Pittsburgh, Fallingwater was completed in 1938 as a weekend retreat for the Kaufmanns, the owners of a Pittsburgh department store. The American Institute of Architects later declared it, “the best all time work of American Architecture”. Made up of interior terraces, circles and cantilevering, the house is purposely positioned above the waterfall, designed to blend into the natural setting. Wright told Kaufmann: “I want you to live with the waterfall… not just look at it.” Today it’s accessible via guided tour (reservations recommended). Visit fallingwater.org.
4. Frederick C Robie House, Illinois
Located on the campus of the University of Chicago, this house was built between 1909 and 1910 as a single family home. It’s famous for being the greatest example of Prairie-style architecture, the first architectural style considered uniquely American. The term was coined by historians and critics who recognised how the buildings and their components owed their design to the landscape and plant life of the Midwest prairie of the US. Visitors today can see 174 stained-glass windows and doors on scheduled tours. Visit cal.flwright.org/tours/robie.
5. Hollyhock House, Los Angeles, California
Hollyhock House is the first Los Angeles landmark designated a World Heritage Site, and was Wright’s second architectural project in California. Built between 1919 and 1921, it showcases a style of architecture known as ‘California Romanza’ (from the musical term meaning ‘freedom to make one’s own form’). The house was commissioned by oil heiress Aline Barnsdall as the centre of a cultural arts complex on Olive Hill. It was her personal residence, and she asked Wright to incorporate her favourite flower, the hollyhock, into the design. The house is open for self-guided tours from Thursday to Sunday. Visit barnsdall.org/hollyhock-house.
6. Unity Temple, Oak Park, Illinois
This was one of the earliest public buildings in the United States to feature exposed concrete, and the greatest public building of Wright’s Prairie period. Although it was built in 1909 with a very modest design budget, it still exists today as an icon of modern architecture, and continues to serve its original design purpose as a house of worship and a space for community gatherings and cultural events. Self-guided tours are possible, but the 60-minute guided tour, or 90-minute in-depth tour, will give visitors a better understanding and appreciation of Wright’s work. Visit flwright.org/researchexplore/unitytemple.
7. Taliesin, Spring Green, Wisconsin
Taliesin was the home, studio, architectural school and 800-acre agricultural estate of Frank Lloyd Wright. It was built on his favourite childhood hill in the Wisconsin River valley, which was homesteaded by his Welsh grandparents; the architect named it Taliesin in honour of the Welsh bard whose name means Shining Bow. The estate showcases designs from almost every decade of Wright’s life and the Taliesin residence, which was built in 1903, is at the heart of the buildings. The one-hour Hillside tour gives an introduction to Wright’s work, while ongoing cultural programming aims to provide a greater understanding of Wright’s architecture and ideas. Visit taliesinpreservation.org.
8. Taliesin West, Scottsdale, Arizona
Located in the foothills of the McDowell Mountains in Scottsdale, Arizona, was Wright’s winter home and studio; today it’s the home of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and the School of Architecture at Taliesin. It was built and maintained almost entirely by Wright and his apprentices between 1938 and 1940. In 1943 Wright said: “Taliesin West is a look over the rim of the world.” Today visitors can take guided tours around the property, or take digital tours online. Visit franklloydwright.org/taliesin-west/tickets-tours.
- Press Association