Inspiring Architects: Frank Lloyd Wright

Thursday, March 19, 2015

No building exists in isolation. No matter how unique and tailored to our clients a home may be, it draws upon the rich heritage of architecture and contributes its own character to the ongoing art.

Acknowledging where a building sits in time, space and the field itself is essential to great architecture. This is as true for the deeply personal projects we work on at DGA as it is for the skyscrapers that spear across London’s skyline.

In honour of this, I’m going to share the architects whose influence inspired me to first put pen to paper and have continued to echo throughout my career and my creations.

The first name that comes to mind is the great Frank Lloyd Wright. This brilliant, complicated man pushed the technology of the early 20th century to its very limits to create unique buildings dedicated entirely to their settings and the human experience, with designs that weren’t at all isolated or reproduced.

Wright believed in forging a new American school of architectural style and principles. Just as the citizens of the young nation had left behind the old world, so too should their buildings. His architecture would refocus its attention on the people, the national character and the landscape instead of emulating European styles.

He wasn’t just learning a new language, he was creating one.

Stylistically, he was confidently modern, brave and bold even by today’s standards. He cut away superfluous flare down to simple, elegant forms that, despite this refinement, enhanced rather than diminished their organic charm and warmth.

Through this process and deep consideration and affection for its surrounding environment, Wright’s sculptural designs managed to evoke the local character even if their appearance was unlike anything seen in a building before.

Wright possessed the rare skill of being able to make a square fit in a forest.

Functionally, he moulded the home to its inhabitants. For his domestic builds, increased spatial attention was given to areas that brought families together as part of a (now essential) understanding of how environment affects our behaviour and well-being. He saw how life was changing and wanted homes to accelerate rather than obstruct that change.

Combined, these principles informed buildings that gave people an unimpeded connection with their environment, inside and out, whether they’re over a waterfall as in his iconic Falling Waters home or nestled in the metropolis of New York in the Guggenheim Museum.

I recommend walking through a Wright designed building whenever you get the chance. You’ll find yourself guided with great care through its spaces with clear views to the outside and throughout the interior giving you a firm a sense of place. They aren’t simply places, they are experiences.

Wright drew over a thousand designs, around half of which have been built. His desire to create an American architectural tradition was a lofty goal which was ultimately modest compared to his achievements. His principles spread beyond America’s borders and became pillars of a modern aesthetic with global reach.

Much of what he pioneered continues to this day and certainly can be felt across our portfolio. In particular, I’m fond of having uninterrupted views from the front door to the garden to make a space feel larger and better connected with the outside world.

A consideration for the environment is essential as well, finding ways to incorporate the vernacular of the setting whether it’s a period conversion or a new build. We’ve all encountered buildings is London that just don’t fit and I’ve endeavoured to make sure anything we design isn’t one of them.

Ultimately, Wright’s human touch is most influential. The contemporary focus on the kitchen as a communal space, often combined with the living room, can trace its roots back to his efforts to design environments around the lives and interactions that filled them.

Day to day, we’re always finding new ways to achieve this ideal at every scale, from the detail of the fittings to the layout of every floor. Too see what we’ve contributed to this tradition, feel free to browse our portfolio of bespoke, contemporary homes.

By John Dyer-Grimes