For many years growing up I wanted to be an architect (with brief breaks of zeal for marine biology whenever I visited my grandparents in Florida,) and Frank Lloyd Wright amounted to 90% of the reason. According to the American Institute of Architects, he's "the greatest American architect of all time." Once you get your eye on a few of his building, you can see where they're coming from.

They call it "Neo-Mayan" architecture. I guess I can see that.

The first Wright building I saw was the Beth Shalom Synagogue, all of five and a half miles from the house I grew up in, and I didn't realize it was Wright for years afterward. Despite the incredible design, it's not a particularly imposing building from the outside. But it holds a thousand worshipers, and the vaulted walls as transparent, allowing natural light in the sanctuary during the day a glow from within at night.

Holy Crap!

Then, of course, there was Fallingwater. I saw it maybe 12 years ago the first time, and have been back once or twice since. Not only is it one of the greatest pieces of American architecture of all time (perhaps the greatest,) it's also the prime example of Wright's "organic architecture." Organic architecture asks that the building be integrated into its environs rather than imposed upon them. The cantilevered terraces are reminiscent of the fissile shale (I think it's shale) that makes up the creek bed, and the building over all looks like it was fitted between the trees and hillside as a whole, notched in perfectly.

Staircase to Bear Run. Jealous!

See what I mean about the terraces?

While Fallingwater gets all the fame and glory, Southwestern PA has another Wright house that's just four miles away from Fallingwater. It's called Kentuck Knob, and it's pretty awesome. He designed it later in his career, simultaneously with the Guggenheim and that Beth Shalom synagogue I was talking about a minute ago. In a move pretty typical for his style, Wright put the house a little bit off from the peak of Kentuck Knob (a natural feature as well as the name of the house) even though the view would have been superior, because it allowed a more natural integration with the hill, and the roof of the car port is actually built into the knob. The house is a crescent shape hinged on a hexagonal kitchen, the walls of which are made out of sandstone from the area. The hexagon comes into play frequently in the design of the house, including some pretty wicked sunroofs above the porch.

Red cypress is a really cool building material.

Hey look, it's a hexagonal kitchen.

I want to mention two more houses: Taliesin and Taliesin West. Both were homes for Wright himself, and doubled as studios. Taliesin, which I have visited, in in southwestern Wisconsin next door to property owned by Wright's mother. He first built it so he could run away with his mistress, and then had to rebuild it after a servant of his intentionally burned down the residential wing while killing eleven people with an ax. Seriously. Taliesin also happens to be a beautiful house.

I want this.

There's a sick lookout of this other side of this valley.

Taliesin West, in Scottsdale Arizona, I have unfortunately not visited, but it's on my list. Inspired by the necessity of rebuilding the original Taliesin, Wright used both homes as laboratories, regularly constructing and deconstructing pieces with students in his Fellowship. Just look at this house. Look at it.

Jeez.

Great pool, or greatest pool?

So, who wants to be an architect?

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So, what do you think?