1496 The 20th-Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright – 2019

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The property consists of eight buildings in the United States designed by the architect during the first half of the 20th century. These include well known designs such as Fallingwater (Mill Run, Pennsylvania) and the Guggenheim Museum (New York). All the buildings reflect the ‘organic architecture' developed by Wright, which includes an open plan, a blurring of the boundaries between exterior and interior and the unprecedented use of materials such as steel and concrete. Each of these buildings offers innovative solutions to the needs for housing, worship, work or leisure. Wright's work from this period had a strong impact on the development of modern architecture in .

Brief synthesis

focusses upon the influence that the work of this architect had, not only in his country, the United States of America, but more importantly, on architecture of the 20th century and upon the recognized masters of the Modern Movement in architecture in . The qualities of what is known as ‘Organic Architecture' developed by Wright, including the open plan, the blurring between exterior and interior, the new uses of materials and technologies and the explicit responses to the suburban and natural settings of the various buildings, have been acknowledged as pivotal in the development of modern architectural design in the 20th century.

The property includes a series of eight buildings designed and built over the first half of the 20th century; each component has specific characteristics, representing new solutions to the needs for housing, worship, work, education and leisure. The diversity of functions, scale and setting of the components of the series fully illustrate the architectural principles of “organic architecture”.

The buildings employ geometric abstraction and spatial manipulation as a response to functional and emotional needs and are based literally or figuratively on nature's forms and principles. In adapting inspirations from global cultures, they break free of traditional forms and facilitate modern life. Wright's solutions would go on to influence architecture and design throughout the world, and continue to do so to this day.

The components of the series include houses both grand and modest (including the consummate example of a “Prairie” house and the prototype “Usonian” house); a place of worship; a museum; and complexes of the architect's own homes with studio and education facilities. These buildings are located variously in city, suburban, forest, and desert environments. The substantial range of function, scale, and setting in the series underscores both the consistency and the wide applicability of those principles. Each has been specifically recognized for its individual influence, which also contributes uniquely to the elaboration of this original architectural language.

Such features related to innovation are subordinated to designs that integrate form, materials, technology, furnishings, and setting into a unified whole. Each building is uniquely fitted to the needs of its owner and its function and, though designed by the same architect, each has a very different character and appearance, reflecting a deep respect and appreciation for the individual and the particular. Together, these buildings illustrate the full range of this architectural language, which is a singular contribution to global architecture in spatial, formal, material, and technological terms.

The Outstanding Universal Value of the serial property is conveyed through attributes such as spatial continuity expressed through the open plan and blurred transitions between interior and exterior spaces; dynamic forms that employ innovative structural methods and an inventive use of new materials and technologies; design inspired by nature's forms and principles; integral relationship with nature; primacy of the individual and individualized expression and transforming inspirations from other places and cultures.

Criterion (ii):

demonstrates an important interchange in the discourse that changed architecture on a global scale during the first half of the 20th century. The eight components illustrate different aspects of Wright's new approach to architecture consciously developed for an American context; the resulting buildings, however, were in fact suited to modern life in many countries, and in their fusion of spirit and form they evoked emotional responses that were universal in their appeal. Reacting against prevailing styles in the United States, this approach took advantage of new materials and technologies, but was also inspired by principles of the natural world and was nurtured by other cultures and eras. These innovative ideas and the resulting unified architectural works were noted in European architectural and critical circles early in the century and influenced several of the trends and architects of the European Modern Movement in architecture. Wright's influence is also noticeable in the work of some architects in Latin America, Australia and Japan.


The serial property contains all the elements necessary to express its Outstanding Universal Value since it encompasses the works generally understood by critics and other architects to have been most influential. Each component highlights a different aspect of the attributes that demonstrate this influence and contributes to illustrating different aspects of the Outstanding Universal Value in a defined and discernible way, and reflects clear cultural and architectural links. As an ensemble, they prove to have exerted an influence on architecture over the first half of the 20th century.

The boundaries of each of the components include all the key elements to express their significance, although a minor boundaries modification in Taliesin, to include all the structures and gardens designed by Wright, would allow a better understanding of the whole property. The boundaries in components located in relation to wider natural settings allow an accurate representation of the relationships between the buildings and their surroundings. The components of the serial property include the buildings and interior furniture and all are overall adequately protected; none suffers from adverse effects of development or neglect. Each building has benefited from careful and comprehensive conservation studies and expert technical advice to ensure a high level of preservation.


Most of the components of the serial property have remained remarkably unchanged since their construction in their form and design, use and function, materials and substance, spirit and feeling. Conservation of each of the buildings, when needed to correct long-term structural issues or repair deterioration, has been in accordance with high standards of professional practice, ensuring the long-term conservation of original fabric wherever possible, and the significant features of each site; in all cases work has been based on exceptionally complete documentation. Very few features have been modified; the changes and replacements of material component parts must be understood as a means of retaining their forms and uses. In cases where the original function has changed, the current use is fully consistent with the original design.

The relationship between the sites and their settings is in general acceptable; the residential low density areas where some of the buildings are located have not experienced drastic changes in scale over time, although this is an aspect that must be considered in the protection and management systems. In the case of buildings located in natural settings, only Taliesin West poses some problems because of the expansion of the city of Scottsdale.

Protection and management requirements

Each property has been designated by the United States Department of the Interior as an individual National Historic Landmark, which gives it, under federal law, the highest level of protection. One of the components of the series is owned by a local government; the others are privately owned by non-profit organizations, foundations and an individual. Each building is protected from alterations, demolitions, and other inappropriate changes through deed restrictions, local preservation ordinances and zoning laws, private conservation easements, and state law. Active conservation measures have been carried out for all of the components.

Each site has an effective management system that makes use of a suite of planning and conservation guidance. The management coordination body is the Frank Lloyd Wright World Heritage Council, established in 2012 via a Memorandum of Agreement between the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy and the owners and/or representatives of the owners of the individual component properties. The Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, an NGO with offices in Chicago organized for the purpose of preserving and protecting the remaining works of Frank Lloyd Wright, coordinates the work of the Council. Since the Council has an advisory capacity, its role in the decision making process should be strengthened.

The development and implementation of management plans for those components which do not already have them is recommended; risk preparedness and visitor management must be considered for all of the components of the serial property.

Key indicators to monitor the state of conservation of the buildings according to their specific characteristics have been identified; they are mostly related to building materials and, in the cases of Fallingwater and Taliesin West, to landscape features. The indicators, though, are not directly related to the attributes proposed by the State Party to convey the Outstanding Universal Value of the serial property.

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