Frank Lloyd Wright was probably the greatest influence on design in the 20th Century and, if anything, his designs are more popular today than when he died in 1959 — 55 years ago. About 80,000 people tour his home and workshop in Oak Park, Illinois and then do the walking tour of the area where Wright built many homes for friends and family. His winter home at Taliesin West, Arizona gets more than 100,000 visitors annually. His most famous home, Fallingwater in Mill Run, Pennsylvania, hosts between 150,000 to 200,000 devotees of his work who tour the house and grounds. He designed more than 1000 buildings and completed 532 of them. People flock to see them in their locations all over the U.S. and in Great Britain, Italy, Germany, South Asia, the Middle East, Mexico, and Central America. There are more than 150 books written by or about him and about 100 on Fallingwater (my favourite FLW house) alone.
There are several books in my own library that I highly recommend. If you’d like to inspect some of his buildings up close in 3D, there is a Frank Lloyd Wright in Pop-Up that will give you a unique perspective. I used to take it in to school for my grade 5 and 6 students when we were reading The Wright 3 by Blue Balliette, an exciting mystery story about grade six students who uncover illegal shenanigans in the Robie House (take this link to an interactive site of the Robie House) in Chicago. This house is one of three houses featured in the pop-up book along with Fallingwater and the Mabel and Charles Ennis house. It also features pop-ups of the J.C.Johnson & Son Administration Building and Research Tower, the Guggenheim Museum and the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church. Children aren’t the only ones who find this book fascinating. It includes a general introduction, photos of each building from various angles and blueprints. My favourites are Fallingwater and the Guggenheim, both of which I’ve toured.
There is a really great Frank Lloyd Wright Field Guide: Includes All United States and International Sites that shows every house and building designed and built by FLW state by state, country by country, with pictures and a brief history. This is a real asset if you’re traveling and want to visit the ones you’ll be near. Many of the homes are privately owned and can only be viewed from the outside; others can be toured, usually for a fee. All the information you’ll need, with maps, are included in this pocket-sized book (if you have large pockets).
Part of FLW’s philosophy was that the house and its environment were part and parcel and his landscape gardens are “equally worthy of acclaim” according to the dust jacket of The Gardens of Frank Lloyd Wright by photographer Derek Fell. This “coffee table” book is a photo study of the landscaping of the Oak Park homes, Taliesin & Taliesin West, Fallingwater, his garden sculpture, his prairie style garden, desert garden, and other landscapes and influences. You’ll want to check out the landscape tips from FLW himself.
You can learn as much about his autobiography by reading Brendan Gill’s biography called Many Masks: A Life Of Frank Lloyd Wright. Gill knew him very well and liked him but none-the-less gives a balanced view of the man, the genius, the innovator, the manipulator, and even the scoundrel (loveable but frustrating). Wright operated on the philosophy from a very young age that if you took care of the luxuries first, the necessities would eventually take care of themselves. As a result, he often incurred great debts and eventually friends were required to step in and set up a trust whereby his income was handled and debts discharged. If you aren’t knowledgeable about architectural terms you may want to keep a dictionary handy — there is no glossary.
FLW is perhaps less well-know for his graphic designs for murals, windows, posters, and designs created for magazines, some of which were never published as being deemed too radical. The geometric patterns in his windows are lovely and many of his designs are now available in small or large light catchers, ties, scaves, or cotton throws. A comprehensive collection can be found in Penny Fowler’s Frank Lloyd Wright: Graphic Artist.
If you’re interested in knowing more about his personal life, the novel Loving Frank: A Novel by Nancy Horan is a reasonable speculation on his life and scandalous relationship with the wife of his neighbour and client, Mamah Borthwick Cheney, from its beginning in conservative Oak Park, Illinois to its tragic end in flames in Taliesin, Wisconsin.
These are just a few of the many but any of them would make a great addition to your library and a fine introduction to Frank Lloyd Wright.