Frank Lloyd Wright forever changed the face of architecture, something few people have accomplished.
But he didn’t stop there.
Wright’s ideas actually altered the way we think about fundamental concepts such as “home,” “nature” and “boundaries.”
“It’s not just that I admire his work,” says Brian Van Bower, co-founder of The Genesis 3 Design Group and president of Miami-based Aquatic Consultants . “It’s because he was willing to step off the normal platform into places most others weren’t willing to go.
“It was all about taking risks, and his thinking often was bigger than what could be accomplished under current knowledge.”
Before creating his seminal works, Wright established the Prairie style. It was a rebellion against the neoclassicism that dominated American architecture at the time, an approach that Wright ridiculed as decidedly un-American.
With his low horizontal lines, broad window space, wide doorways and integration with the surroundings, Wright’s Prairie style was truly revolutionary.
One of the more nuanced tendencies of the Prairie style involved Wright’s melding of home and nature. He used earthen color palettes within many of his houses, and believed the furnishings should never be viewed as separate from each other or the homes themselves.
As a result, many of Wright’s dwellings featured furniture that was actually built into the structures. And he often used natural materials in his homes’ interiors and exteriors. Wright famously asked his audiences why they should paint over wood when its beauty lies in its natural essence, not in its bastardization.
The philosophy of using color to accentuate one’s natural surroundings is reflected in some of Van Bower’s signature creations. A carefully chosen blue tile scheme on a project in Miami Beach melds magnificently with the adjacent intercoastal waterway. And perimeter-overflow projects in Atlanta and Port Charlotte, Fla., utilize brilliantly the natural elements of water and fire against urban and suburban backdrops.
Though Wright was seen as an innovator from relatively early on in his career, it was his masterpiece Fallingwater that many believe redefined the word “home.”
“[The] house will not shut out the forest. It will embrace tree trunks that spring up through cuts in the balconies,” reported the St. Louis Dispatch in 1937. “A house that straddles a waterfall … when finished, it will seem to have grown by a natural process of geology out of the boulders of Bear Run.”
The home was completed later that year for Edgar Kaufmann, a Pittsburgh department-store owner. Kaufmann had one objection to the design — that it would be an engineering impossibility.
“Nature cantilevered those boulders out over the fall,” Wright replied simply. “I can cantilever the house over the boulders.”
And so the architect’s genius was reinforced once again, as was his reputation for traversing where others feared to tread.
But one cannot fully embrace the vision of Frank Lloyd Wright without also appreciating his courage to challenge the conventions of the day. Van Bower himself has never shied from bucking a trend. It’s not difficult to imagine the two exchanging philosophies over a glass of vintage.
“I must say he’d be out of my picture if he didn’t drink wine,” Van Bower jokes. “But as it stands, he’s the man.”