Frank Lloyd Wright Design Philosophy


(with reference to the Prairie Homes design)

For Wright, design and form acquired a symbolic meaning. Architecture can embody "picturesque" qualities that harmonize with the environment.

Architectural beauty is seen as a reflection of the harmony that manifests from the integration of design, plan, form and materials. This is Wright's "organic" approach to design.

Architectural beauty is a natural outcome of the clear design plan of simple and harmonious relationships. All elements of a structure should be designed with economy according to the natural principles of geometrical relationships and the unadulterated use of appropriate materials.

Wright used different basic geometrical forms, usually squares and rectangles to produce the distinctive forms, particularly in regards to the Prairie house designs. Wright's "organic" approach to design of the exteriors were also carried to that of the interiors. In this way, Wright is considered to be very much part of the modernist agenda in the early twentieth century architecture. His approach favoured a moving away of traditional construction practices, in favour of new and innovative freedoms in design.

Wright's design solution was to view all details of a structure as the product of a single independent mind - including all major and minor ornamental and symbolic elements.

An important aspect for design is the value that ornament should be based upon the abstraction of nature.

Wright developed his own distinctive ornamental vocabulary. With it he strove to unify the interior and exterior of a design through its decorative detailing. By employing this method, Wright sought to unify structural and aesthetic elements into a single composite form. Architectural beauty being the product of combining simple forms and expressing harmonious relationships.

Reference: Frank Lloyd Wright at a Glance: Prairie Houses, by Abby Moor, PRC Publishing Limited, 2002.


Wright is considered to be one of the greatest architects of the twentieth century, with the reputation of also being one of the most influential. His residential, private, commercial and public buildings are a testament to a new vision of architectural space and design. For Wright, nature was his guide and inspiration. In the twentieth century, new building materials and construction technologies meant that designers could be liberated by the constraints of more traditional forms of architecture. For Wright, many different environmental factors were incorporated into his designs in a way that addressed the dynamics of an architecture that integrated the essences of nature and humanism.


The Hollyhock motif is the dominate ornament of Wright's 1921 Aline Barnsdall's Hollyhock House. Wright's abstraction of the hollyhock (alcea rosea) has been described as Mayan, but in reality allows for a greater freedom of interpretation. A series of these plaques run across the west facade of the house, and variations of the abstraction are used throughout the exterior and interior of the house. The Hollyhock design is a highly conventionalized or stylized motif that makes the Hollyhock House unique. Today, it reminds one of a modern geometric or futuristic expression; but its origins lie in Wright's ability to rework the designs found in nature, as a complement to the built environment.