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How Important Is Theory to the Practice of Athe Relationship of Theory, Design and Practice in the Case of Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier

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Around the 1900's a number of architects around the world began developing new architectural solutions to integrate traditional precedents with new technological possibilities. The work of Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright in Chicago, Antoni Gaudi in Barcelona and Charles Rennie Mackintosh in Glasgow and Le Corbusier in France can be seen as a common struggle between old and new.

In this essay I am going to concentrate on the theory, design and practice of Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier. I think it is interesting to consider the work of two extremely influential architects working in completely different parts of the world.

Believing that “the space within that building is the reality of that building”, Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) was one of the most prolific and influential architects of the twentieth century. From his early Prairie Style homes, to the sculptural curves of the Guggenheim Museum in New York he defined a North American style of architecture which was rich in emotion and sensitive to its surroundings.

One of the founders of modern architecture in North America, Frank Lloyd Wright embraced the use of new technology, materials and engineering to create some of the 20th century’s most influential and iconic buildings. During a long and productive career spanning 70 years he designed over 1,000 buildings of which over 400 were built.

Wright developed a language of architecture that did not look to Europe but was unique to the United States. As well as creating buildings which were radical in appearance, Wright had a rare ability to integrate them with the landscape вЂ" stemming from his deep love and knowledge of nature.

Wright was born in 1867 and throughout his childhood his mother encouraged him to become an architect. She hung prints of cathedrals on his bedroom wall as well as giving him a Froebel Kindergarten play set which included wooden bricks of all the different geometric shapes. He wrote about this later in his life saying, “the maple wood blocks…. all are in my fingers to this day”. These childhood building blocks gave Wright the basic forms of his architectural style.

At eighteen he moved to Chicago where he quickly found work with the architectural firm of Joseph Lyman Silsbee. Wright’s ambition, soon took him to Adler and Sullivan, Chicago’s most progressive and influencial architects. Louis Sullivan was an important influence on Wright and put him in charge of the firm’s residential building work. He also gave him a loan in 1889 to purchase land to build a home for himself and his new wife, Catherine Lee Tobin, in the Oak Park district of Chicago.

Wright adapted Sullivan's maxim "Form Follows Function" to his own revised theory of "Form and Function Are One." It was Sullivan's belief that American Architecture should be based on American function, not European traditions, a theory which Wright later developed further. Throughout his life, Wright acknowledged very few influences but credits Sullivan as a primary influence on his career In 1893 Wright was asked to leave the firm for pursuing too much private work and at the age of 26 he started his own practice.

During the next sixteen years Wright developed the style of architecture he was to become most famous for. He used the Prairie Style of architecture in a large number of commissions for private homes in Chicago, in particular, in Oak Park. It is to his credit that most of his clients were extremely pleased with the homes Wright built. One of his less published achievements was his mastery of the internal environment, with great attention paid to lighting, heating and climate control. They had a style all their own, mimicking that of a horizontal plane, with no basements or attics. Built with natural materials and never painted, Wright utilized low-pitched rooflines with deep overhangs and uninterrupted walls of windows to merge the horizontal homes into their environments. He added large stone or brick fireplaces in the homes' heart, and made the rooms open to one another.

The Prairie Style aimed to create a truly North American architecture, but Wright also drew inspiration from Europe and Asia in the form of the British Arts and Crafts movement and his great knowledge of the art and architecture of Japan. Although radical, Wright can be viewed within the context of a group of US architects and designers, who included Gustav Stickley and the brothers Charles and Henry Greene. They had similar external influences, yet also looked to their native US culture and climate to create confident work with a strong sense of national identity.

The 1906 Robie House in Chicago was Wright’s most mature expression of the Prairie Style of architecture. Frederick Robie, an engineer and industrialist, wanted a house full of light with views of the street, but without his neighbours looking in. Using brick, concrete, steel and glass, Wright constructed a massive cantilever on the west side of the house that gave the living room privacy and shelter from the sun. It also opened out the house by moving away from the tight box shape of traditional homes. The low, horizontal form is exaggerated with the use of ribbons of cream stone for the base plinth and copingstones and red brick for the walls. A central fireplace above the mantel gave greater unity of space to the large living and dining rooms, which Wright saw as the centre of family life.

Although there was no external garden, the use of massive planters and urns softened the hard edges of the building and at each level Wright designed a terrace, balcony or porch to break the division between inside and outside. All internal details, including the furnishings, light fittings, rugs and the essential art glass were also designed by Wright.

The Robie House is a perfect example of Wright’s architectural process. He perfectly balances the desires of his client for light and privacy in this Chicago home. Typical of the Prairie Style the house is long and low and exhibits Wright’s theories on American architecture being based on American need and culture.

Wright's influence continued to grow in popularity in America and Europe. Eventually his innovative building style spread overseas. In 1915, Wright was commissioned to design the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. It was during this time that Wright began to develop and refine his architectural and sociological philosophies. Because Wright disliked the urban environment, his buildings also developed a style quite different from other architects of the time. He utilized natural materials,

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