Frank Lloyd Wright’s influence is left throughout the world, particularly in Arizona. Born in 1867, the Wisconsin native dropped out of high school to study civil engineering. He moved to Chicago in 1887 to work for Joseph Lyman Sisbee and then spent six years working for Louis Sullivan, who became his mentor. In 1893, Wright opened his own firm.

His residential design style emerged. He created homes on a horizontal plan and built with natural materials. Wright’s designs did not include basements, attics or paint, but open rooms that flowed into one another. Between 1915 and 1935, Wright designed commercial projects, such as the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo and the Guggenheim Museum in New York City.

In 1932, Wright founded an architectural fellowship at Taliesin, his Spring Green, Wisconsin, home. Thirty students arrived and paid to live and work with the master. In 1937, Wright built Taliesin West in what is now Scottsdale, Arizona. He moved to Arizona full-time, but retained his Wisconsin home. He continued to teach and added facilities onto his properties as his students needed. Wright died at Taliesin West in 1959 at the age of 92. Out of his 1,141 designs, 532 projects had been completed.

Prairie Architecture

Frank Lloyd Wright believed that rooms in Victorian era homes were boxed-in and confining. He began to design houses with low horizontal lines and open interior spaces. Rooms were often divided by leaded glass panels. Furniture was either built-in or specially designed. These homes were called prairie style after Wright’s 1901 Ladies Home Journal plan titled, “A Home in a Prairie Town.” Prairie houses were designed to blend in with the flat, prairie landscape.

The first Prairie houses were usually plaster with wood trim or sided with horizontal board and batten. Later Prairie homes used concrete block. Prairie homes can have many shapes: SquareL-shapedT-shapedY-shaped, and even pinwheel-shaped.

Many other architects designed Prairie homes and the style was popularized by pattern books. The popular American Foursquare style, sometimes called the Prairie Box, shared many features with the Prairie style.

Prairie style houses usually have these features:

  • Low-pitched roof
  • Overhanging eaves
  • Horizontal lines
  • Central chimney
  • Open floor plan
  • Clerestory Windows

Usonian Architecture

In 1936, during the USA depression, Frank Lloyd Wright developed a simplified version of Prairie architecture called Usonian. Wright believed these stripped-down houses represented the democratic ideals of the United States.

In 1936, when the United States was in the depths of an economic depression, American architect Frank Lloyd Wright developed a series of homes he called Usonian. Designed to control costs, Wright’s Usonian houses had no attics, no basements, and little ornamentation.
The word Usonia is an abbreviation for United States of North America. Frank Lloyd Wright aspired to create a democratic, distinctly American style that was affordable for the “common people.”‘

Usonian is a term usually referring to a group of approximately sixty middle-income family homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright beginning in 1936 with the Jacobs House. The “Usonian Homes” were typically small, single-story dwellings without a garage or much storage, L-shaped to fit around a garden terrace on odd (and cheap) lots, with native materials, flat roofs and large cantilevered overhangs for passive solar heating and natural cooling, natural lighting with clerestory windows, and radiant-floor heating. A b visual connection between the interior and exterior spaces is an important characteristic of all Usonian homes. The word carport was coined by Wright to describe an overhang for a vehicle to park under.

Usonian architecture grew out of Frank Lloyd Wright’s earlier Prairie-style homes. Both styles featured low roofs and open living areas. Both styles made abundant use of brick, wood, and other natural material. However, Wright’s Usonian homes were small, one-story structures set on concrete slabs with piping for radiant heat beneath. The kitchens were incorporated into the living areas. Open car ports took the place of garages.

In the 1950s, when he was in his ’80s, Frank Lloyd Wright first used the termUsonian Automatic to describe a Usonian style house made of inexpensive concrete blocks. The three-inch-thick modular blocks could be assembled in a variety of ways and secured with steel rods and grout. Frank Lloyd Wright hoped that home buyers would save money by building their own Usonian Automatic houses. But assembling the modular parts proved complicated – most buyers hired pros to construct their Usonian houses.

Variants of the Jacobs House design are still in existence today and do not look overly dated. The Usonian design is considered among the aesthetic origins of the popular “ranch” tract home popular in the American west of the 1950s.