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June 08, 2005

Frank Lloyd Wright and the Designocracy

If you've used Google today, Frank_lloyd_wright
you've probably learned that it's Frank Lloyd Wright's birthday. The prominent American architect, most remembered for the Solomon Guggengheim Museum in NYC (Wright famously said in a 1949 letter to Arthur Holden, "I can think of several more desirable places in the world to build his great museum, but we will have to try New York.") and the E.J. Kauffman House, Fallingwater, left a legacy that includes coworkers, buildings, and artistic movements that are themselves the subjects of lengthy books and college courses.

But today to remember him, we'll focus on one fat slice of his productive, 92-year life, the Usonian Houses. His plan was to create well-designed homes for middle-income families with the goal of making good design within everyone's reach, not only the wealthy. He may have been a bit ahead of his time. Although 60 of his Usonian houses were built, Wright's project did not make widespread a sort of designocracy that we see in today's Targets, where world class designers play to mass market demands. But he made a strong impact, and the idea for his Usonian project remains a driving force in design today.

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