There is so much talk about eating seasonally. Why not take that same approach to…
No name is quite as famous in American design as that of Frank Lloyd Wright. During his 70-year career, he built over a thousand buildings and his mark on our country’s architectural history and influence over later architects cannot be understated. Both an innovator and dreamer, his approach to creation was so groundbreaking, we’re still talking about his philosophy of organic architecture (where our natural surroundings should be in harmony with humanity) to this day.
From intimate family homes to grand museums, here are some of the most incredible Frank Lloyd Wright places to visit today.
7 Stunning Frank Lloyd Wright Places to Visit
1. Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio in Oak Park, Illinois
If you want to see as many Frank Lloyd Wright buildings as possible in one place, then make sure to visit Oak Park, Illinois. Wright and his wife, Catherine, settled here between 1889 and 1911. During their 20+ year stay, he built a number of homes both in town and nearby Chicago, many of which you can still see today.
The first place, of course, is to visit the Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio where he lived and designed said buildings. What makes this home even more special is that it’s the very first time Wright ever had full artistic control, thus allowing him to fully experiment with his various philosophies and concepts. He truly covered all aspects of this house from the open interior layout right down to the furniture and lighting.
Fun Fact: Ernest Hemingway was born in Oak Park and lived here through high school. He was born in 1899. Do we think Wright and a young Hemingway ever crossed paths?
2. Fallingwater in Mill Run, PA
Located in the Laurel Highlands region of Pennsylvania, Fallingwater is often cited as Frank Lloyd Wright’s magnum opus and is, of course, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was commissioned by Edgar and Liliane Kaufmann (of Kaufmann Department Store) in 1935 to be a rural weekend retreat away from the city. It would stay in the family until the 1960s when their son entrusted the land to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy to keep up its preservation.
Built partly over a waterfall on Bear Run, Fallingwater is one of the best examples of Wright’s organic architecture philosophy. You can see all sorts of ways he made sure the surroundings were incorporated throughout the home. From the lack of curtains to the way the furniture was custom built or the way the sounds of the waterfall can be heard through the house, it truly is a blend of humanity and nature.
Be sure to book a tour and if you can, plan your trip in the fall to really see Fallingwater in all its beauty surrounded by foliage.
3. First Unitarian Society of Madison, WI
There’s a very good reason why Frank Lloyd Wright was chosen to design a new building for the First Unitarian Society of Madison, Wisconsin – his parents had been founders of the congregation all the way back in 1879. Continuing in his organic tradition, the meeting house was built with all natural materials and it looks as though it’s rising out of the ground. The triangular shape and low roofing are one of the world’s most unique examples for church architecture. This innovation perfectly matches the Unitarian’s own forward-thinking teachings.
You don’t have to be a practicing member to enjoy the building. There are public tours available most Sundays throughout the year and most weekdays April – October. Just check their website for a calendar and to book tickets.
4. Guggenheim in NYC, NY
The Guggenheim in New York City is easily one of the most magnificent museums in the world. Wright was originally commissioned to build this modern museum in 1943 for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation’s Museum of Non-Objective Painting. His directives for this new building? According to the curator, Hilla von Rebay, they wanted a “temple of spirit, a monument!” For Wright, this was a chance to put his architectural philosophy to the test in an urban setting like Upper Manhattan.
The project would face a number of delays and wouldn’t actually open up until 1959 after Wright’s death, but today stands as an incredible example of modern design. Inside is a ramp that spirals up six levels continuously, and anyone can spot the white spiral exterior from blocks away.
In order to visit, just be sure to reserve timed tickets in advance. And for anyone who may be on a budget, just know the museum offers a pay what you wish every Saturday from 6:00 – 8:00 PM (minimum is $1, recommended is $10).
5. Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium in Tempe, AZ
If you ask me, the Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium (ASU Gammage) in Tempe, Arizona looks like it belongs in a Wes Anderson film! Belonging to Arizona State University, it was one of Wright’s last public commissions, coming in 1956, and would be built between 1962 and 1964. Wright was friends with ASU’s president at the time, Grady Gammage.
The design of the auditorium was actually based on a Usonian architectural design Wright had begun for an opera house in Baghdad commissioned by King Faisal II before the king’s assassination. You can easily spot its pinkish shell structure from afar, and its interior was designed to accommodate a large range of performances. Everything from presidential debates to Broadway musicals have found a home here.
While it doesn’t look like you can just tour the auditorium, you can, of course, see it from the outside and book tickets to a show. Just know – you can only bring a small clear bag or a tiny clutch no bigger than half a letter paper in with you!
6. Taliesin West in Scottsdale, AZ
Not only is Taliesin West another of Wright’s buildings to land on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list, it’s also one of his most personal. After all, he lived, worked, and taught here each winter until his death. Nestled in the foothills of the McDowell Mountains, it was built by both Wright and his apprentices in 1937. He wanted to create an oasis that would reflect the great vastness of the desert. To do this, he built the walls with local desert rocks and would often look around him for materials instead of importing anything in.
What also makes Taliesin West so special is that this is also where Wright is buried. Although originally buried in Wisconsin, members of the Taliesin Fellowship cremated his body and interred it in a memorial garden on the property. To visit, you just need to book a tour.
7. Taliesin in Spring Green, WI
Last and certainly not least is yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Taliesin, which was built on land that once belonged to his mother’s family. One of the things that makes Taliesin so unique is its history and the fact that it had to be rebuilt three times spanning 1911 to 1959. It thus grew as Wright’s architectural practices grew.
Taliesin I was designed very much in his Prairie School style. It nestled against a hill and was designed with local materials and with his trademark band of windows to let as much nature in as possible. Unfortunately, it burned down in a gruesome tragedy that left his mistress, her children, and many of the workers at his estate dead as well. Taliesin II was finished in 1915 and looked almost identical to its predecessor. It too was destroyed in a fire, though this one was likely caused by an electrical surge and everyone survived.
If Taliesins I and II were shrouded in controversy and tragedy, Taliesin III represented the love Wright’s students and clients had for him. More or less bankrupt, Wright had to give up the land after the bank foreclosed on it in 1927. Then, one of his clients helped create a company called Frank Lloyd Wright Inc, in which people could buy stock and essentially help raise funds for a new Taliesin. Former clients and students bought enough for them to buy the property back, and Wright would go on to build the Taliesin you can visit today.
There are plenty of different tours you can book to both learn more about Taliesin’s history and see not only the house itself but the surrounding property he would go on to buy while alive.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s legacy lives on to this day, and it’s been such an incredible experience visiting his many homes and creations through all my travels. He represents the beautiful blend of dream and design, and his organic architecture philosophy still feels fresh and groundbreaking over a century later. There are so many more places he’s built around the country; many of them once simple family homes. Any I need to add to my list and visit in the future?