Monday, April 12, 2010




Frank Lloyd Wright maintained that the fundamental intention of good architecture, specifically of his “organic architecture,” was to make human life more natural and nature more humane. Clearly, that must begin with how your architecture is related to its surroundings, and vice versa.

To put it simply, the integration of site and architecture is paramount—and no-one has done that more successfully than Fran Lloyd Wright.

Charles & Berdeana Aguar’s exceptional book ‘Wrightscapes: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Landscape Designs’ looks at the spaces outside Wright’s magnificent houses, looking at the relationship between man-made and natural—between site and house. Because in every good design, neither can be understood without the other.

The Aguar’s offer this potent summary of the principles they identify as being identified with Wright’s landscapes—and I say “potent” because they identify principles worth applying to every house that attempts that goal, not just a Wright-designed one:

“Wrightscapes” Defined

    The eventual success of a cultivated environment is not merely the result of plants or structures upon the landscape, but rather the sum of both the tangible and intangible—that is, the unification of the substantive elements upon the site with the personalities and experiences of those who visit or reside in the total environment that has been created.
    Thus, this environment ultimately becomes both a literal and a sensual experience of the pervading essence—or spirit—of the place.  The amalgamation of criteria that creates this spirit-of-place should be, to a greater or lesser degree, inherent in each property…

  1. The residence was designed to meet the needs of a specific client and site, or was designed as a [speculative] home, and Wright or his representative personally provide input as to siting.
  2. The residence was orientated to take advantage of natural factors inherent to the site: optimum solar exposure, prevailing winds, views, natural terrain, existing trees, and other vegetation.
  3. The architecture and landscape treatment are responsive to and “at one” with the site—that is, there is a perceived (if not actual) interrelationship with the Nature of the site.
  4. The natural landscape has been preserved, or the structure and plantings present a total composition that follows the fundamental design elements of unity, harmony, scale, simplicity, colour, form and texture.
  5. The hardscape—outdoor furniture and construction, such as walls, paving material, water features, paths, parking areas—is in harmony with and suitable for the architecture.
  6. The softscape—plant material—is appropriate to the site and has been retained in a natural form…
  7. Extensions of architecture into the Nature of the site—balconies, verandahs, open porches, and outdoor rooms—have been retained to respect , or adapted to complement, Wright’s original design intent with respect to indoor-outdoor relationships.
  8. The passage of entry from property line to front door provides an experience in itself—and entry experience—with exposure to unifying and/or contrasting textures of both built and natural materials.
  9. There is a “sensed” experience of the total environment—a sense of place—that transcends bui8lding and plant materials, no only in what is seen, but in what is perceived: the feel of textures underfoot and of intermittent coolness and warmth to the skin; moving out from the shade and into the sun; the smell of flowers, grass, fruit, or any scents vivified by rain or air; the sounds of crunching gravel, singing and chirping birds, or splashing water; and other sensory qualities.

In other words, everything that can be done to put the occupants of the architecture into possession of their earth, and to remind them why life on this earth is worth living.

The pictures, by the way, are of the landscape around Wright’s own home in Wisconsin, Taliesin East.