Meet Frank Lloyd Wright, America's greatest architect

Photos by Kevin Clifford/Nevada Appeal

Photos by Kevin Clifford/Nevada Appeal

The current exhibition at the Nevada Museum of Art offers a peek into the mind of one of the most important American architects of the 20th century: Frank Lloyd Wright, creator of the Prairie Style and the concept of the "house beautiful."

The latter phrase was taken over by magazine editors to describe modern design in the home and is still used. Prairie Style is now a historical definition for his one-story, simple designs.

What Wright meant by both phrases was the idea of a home as a whole, opened up from traditional European designs of a box with many boxes inside as rooms.

He pioneered the idea of a "big room" or "great room," used today to describe a home where dining, living and kitchen are in one open space.

The NMA exhibit, "Frank Lloyd Wright and the House Beautiful," brings together more than 100 objects, including furniture, metal work, windows, textiles, drawings, publications and accessories. It will remain up through July 20.

Wright lived a colorful life, built many fine buildings and designed everything to go into those buildings. He insisted on a high level in everything he did, and the exhibit shows that care. He also insisted that architecture reflect the American spirit of freedom and respect for the environment. He believed that one's life could be enhanced by one's material environment.

Wright was a constant experimenter, always looking for a new and better way to build and to live. Not all of his experiments were successful, but those that were remain part of America's heritage.

The show is divided into three sections: The first shows how Wright sought to develop a modern structure reflecting American democracy and individualism.

The second shows how Wright worked to integrate space with furniture and architecture. The third looks at his experiments to fuse it all together.

Much of Wright's work has been destroyed - time and space demands at work. The Tokyo Imperial Hotel, which withstood the earthquake of 1928, is long gone, but a piece of it survives in the new Imperial in the form of the Old Imperial Bar.

This writer often visited the old Imperial for martinis and a western-style bathroom (rare in those days in downtown Tokyo). The ceilings were low, the corridors twisting and the vaguely Aztec design charming in tufa stone.

His glass building for the Johnson Wax company in Racine, Wis., survives, as does his most contemporary work, the Guggenheim Museum of Art in Manhattan, where the walkway spirals up the inside wall of the building.

Wright also worked on the Chicago suburbs in the 1970s.

The list of Wright creations also includes the Robie House, Taliesin and Taliesin West and Falling Water. In 1991 the American Institute of Architects named Wright the greatest American architect of all time.

Not everything Wright created was a success - even the mass-produced versions of his furniture - but that which was imagination in its fullest flower.

• Contact Sam Bauman at or 881-1236.

if you go

what: An installation of "Frank Lloyd Wright and the House Beautiful"

where: Nevada Museum of Art, 160 W. Liberty St. in Reno

when: Daily from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday; Thursdays until 8 p.m.

Admission: Adults, $10, students and seniors, $8; children 6 to 12, $1, children 5 and younger, free.

Call: 329-3333


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