Frank Lloyd Wright and Nature

Frank Lloyd Wright and Nature

Nature, above all else, was Wright's most inspirational force. He advised students to "study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you." He did not suggest copying nature, but instead, allowing it to be an inspiration. Wright often brought aspects of nature into his buildings with his use of natural light, plants, and water. At the Guggenheim Museum, it is thought that a nautilus shell inspired the spiral ramp and that the radial symmetry of a spider web informed the design of the rotunda skylight. As you look around at your built environment, do you notice any designs that were inspired by nature? What are they? What natural forms, materials, or phenomena do they echo?

Suggested Activity

Ask students to gather a collection of natural forms. Seashells, leaves, flowers, and seedpods are just a few possibilities. A wonderful resource for examining the incredible variety of plant forms is the work of Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932), a botanist and photographer in turn-of-the-century Berlin whose photographs are devoted to magnified plants. His images influenced many architects and decorative artists of his time, who quoted Blossfeldt's forms on scales as small as ornamental ironwork and as large as the shapes of entire buildings. Blossfeldt's photographs are available in affordable books and online and are listed in the Resources section of this guide.

Photographs by Karl Blossfeldt

Ask students to choose an object from their collection of natural forms and using the following worksheet develop a drawing and/or model for a building based on that natural form. When the designs are completed, have them present their ideas to the class.

Drawing on Nature
Student's name     ________________________________
Date     ________________________________
Natural form chosen     ________________________________

What are the major physical characteristics of this form? Include shape, color, pattern, and texture in your description.

Draw the form from three different viewpoints.

Now make a drawing for a building that uses this natural form as inspiration for an architectural design.

How will this building be used?
Where is its ideal site?
What materials should be used in its construction? 

On View

This presentation, comprised of selected materials from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Archives, pays homage to the first Frank Lloyd Wright–designed structures in New York City.

Works & Process

Photo: Petrus Sjövik

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