Important 20th Century Design /04 December 2005

359

Frank Lloyd Wright

chair from the S.C. Johnson and Sons building, Racine, Wisconsin
Steelcase Furniture Company
USA, c. 1938
cast and enameled aluminum, upholstery, brass
17½ w × 20 d × 33 h in (44 × 51 × 84 cm)

From the mid 1930s through the early 1940’s, Frank Lloyd Wright created some of the most noteworthy commissions of his career, reestablishing him at the vanguard of American architecture. Several buildings from this period, including the Johnson Wax Administration Building (1936) and the Guggenheim Museum in New York (1943) illustrate a period in his designs dominated by the circle. The Johnson Wax building is a revolutionary design for an office space, and "as inspiring a place to work in as any cathedral ever was in which to worship." The space was outfitted with the first metal office furniture drawn by Wright since the Larkin Building (1905). Within the illuminated space, Wright designed this organically inspired furniture, complimenting the curvilinear motif of the floor plan. In the design, a circle is doubled, acting as the seat and backrest of the chair, supported by parallel rows of semicircular ribs creating an expressive and rigid frame.

literature: Frank Lloyd Wright Monograph 1924-1936, Pfeiffer, pg. 387 illustrates this model in situ

estimate: $60,000–70,000
result: $90,000

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Frank Lloyd Wright 1867–1959

During his seventy year career as an architect, Frank Lloyd Wright created more than 1,100 designs, half of which were realized and a large portion of which came about later in his life. Wright was born in Richland Center, Wisconsin in 1867. He enrolled at the University of Wisconsin in 1885 to study civil engineering, completing only two years of the program. After working for Joseph Silsbee on the construction of the Unity Chapel, Wright decided to pursue a career in architecture and he moved to Chicago where he began an apprenticeship at the famed architectural firm Adler and Sullivan, working directly with Louis Sullivan until 1893.

After parting ways, Wright moved to Oak Park, Illinois. Working from his home studio, he developed a system of design developed from grid units and rooted in an appreciation of natural materials that would come to be known as the Prairie School of Architecture and would change the landscape of American design forever. Wright devoted himself to teaching and writing during the 1920s and 30s. 1935 marked the beginning of an immense surge of creativity and productivity as he began work on his most celebrated residential design, Fallingwater. In the 1940s and 50s Wright focused on his Usonian designs that reflected his belief in democratic architecture, offering middle class residential options. In 1943, Wright took on his most demanding commission, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. The museum, which would open its doors six months after his death in 1959, would be called his most significant work.

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