Unbuilt Frank Lloyd Wright house realised
74 years after it was designed

Unbuilt Frank Lloyd Wright house realised 74 years after it was designed

News: a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1939 but never built has been realised 74 years later at the campus of Florida Southern College.

Unbuilt Frank Lloyd Wright house realised 74 years after it was designed

The single-storey structure was one of around 60 houses drawn up by the late American architect as part of his series of "Usonian homes" - a kind of family residence that is free from ornamentation, intended to represent a national style whilst remaining affordable for the average family.

Unbuilt Frank Lloyd Wright house realised 74 years after it was designed

The house has now been constructed on the campus of Florida Southern College, which itself was masterplanned by Frank Lloyd Wright and currently boasts the world's largest single-site collection of his completed buildings. Wright originally designed 18 buildings for the college but only 12 were constructed during his lifetime, making the Usonian house number 13.

Unbuilt Frank Lloyd Wright house realised 74 years after it was designed

Instead of being used as a residence, the building forms part of the Sharp Family Tourism and Education Center - a gallery and visitor centre presenting both permanent and temporary exhibitions of Wright's life and work.

Unbuilt Frank Lloyd Wright house realised 74 years after it was designed

"It is a singular privilege to be stewards of this paramount piece of American architectural heritage," said college president Anne Kerr. "Frank Lloyd Wright is not only a part of Florida Southern's history, but also a part of America's great history, and the Sharp Family Tourism and Education Center is a wonderful tribute to his legacy on our campus and his impact around the world."

Unbuilt Frank Lloyd Wright house realised 74 years after it was designed

Around 2000 concrete blocks were used to build the walls of the house and had to be hand-made by craftsmen. Roof canopies and window frames are constructed from timber, plus around 6000 coloured glass blocks function as stained glass windows.

Unbuilt Frank Lloyd Wright house realised 74 years after it was designed

The house also features reproduction furniture that was designed by Wright specifically for use in his Usonian homes.

  • UnderArcadia

    I’m not sure how I feel about this.

    • Claudiaacte

      It requires landscaping and will be beautiful. Give it time.

    • saucetin

      Like a good hipster should.

  • Jose Hernando

    It is so weird.

  • T,.T

    Fresh – Light – Right

    • james


  • Rob Clark

    I like the views of the outside. I’m not sure in this day and age how affordable it would be with 2000 handcrafted concrete blocks and 6000 colored glass blocks.

  • Dan

    A house from the grave? I thought Halloween was last week!

  • Marques

    Not a great house by any standards. As it seems it was designed to be affordable, but that was 74 years ago. I see no point doing it now. It just seems disrespectful to the memory of Frank Lloyd Wright.

    • Adam

      How is this in any way disrespectful to build a building that he designed? Are you serious? Even the blocks had to be custom made, much like 74 years ago when those blocks may have been a standard in a manufacturing plant. The disrespectful thing to do is to burn the blueprints so that no-one can ever see or use them.

    • luis

      Most of Frank Lloyd Wright designs are timeless. They work as well 100 years ago as they do now, maybe better. Architecture has no personality now as it’s all standard fabrication minimalism.

  • Pig

    F.L. Wright was a charlatan and no truer a testament to that is this structure.

    • jonathan

      And you’re a troll.

  • T

    I think he left it unbuilt for a reason.

  • Richard Guy

    I have long wondered what the intellectual property rights are for designs by deceased architects. Can one just “copy” their designs? Are there fees to pay? Who decides if one can or not?

  • Marques

    For me, architecture without time and context makes no sense. This is one of those cases. If we think this is right, why don’t we go back even further and start searching for unbuilt designs by other great architects like Vitruvius, Michelangelo, etc…

    • The Open Door

      That actually sounds like an interesting idea. Why not?

    • dhs

      Sometimes to truly understand and appreciate something you have to actually build it. It looks like they did a great job and probably learned a lot in the process. And they have a beautiful building that is a tribute to the original architect and will most likely be useful for a long time.

      Great work!

  • Fed Fef

    I suppose the family holds the copyright, and depending on the circumstances they get paid.

  • Wonderful. Still looks very timeless.

  • TFO

    The only thing missing is the giant glass vitrine that shall encapsulate and preserve the structure for eternity. “Curating” architecture is just plain weird.

  • ha

    It is amazing to see how difficult is to do a good building. Even if the plans were made by one of the best architects in history! At that time, even more than now, the construction process was very important, as this amazingly poor result proves.

    • geoffrey fulton

      Great idea to build it. If nothing else it might show Americans that there are alternative to the thousands of very ugly cookie cutters being built all over the country by developers who obviously don’t engage creative architects to design their products! (You’ve guessed it, I am not an American but an old Australian architect.)

      • saucetin

        Even worse is China, where ‘Mediterranean’ is taken to be Western, or American, and it serves no purpose other than to stand in for ‘wealth’ and ‘status’ without any other meaning.

  • Wishing I could see a plan drawing.

  • Shelagh Nation

    Well said Adam! I’m 83, studied at a time when Wright’s houses were considered great – and I still think this one is great! I was a junior paerner of Helmut Stauch, trained at the Ittenschule, one of our greatest, (And some of my best earlier houses have a ‘family’ resemblance.)

  • Shelagh Nation

    And I am an old South African architect and I think this is probably one of Wright’s better designs. I can but say hooray for an intelligent comment!

    • Shirak

      I took a tour through another one of these Usonian homes in Oregon and it was quite fantastic. I’m a big fan of Wright’s and I’m a young(ish) American. So, some of us get it. ;)

  • Bev Wiesner

    I also wish i could see a pln drawing. There is a house in Minneapolis that isn’t a Usonian but expresses some of the design concepts and it’s quite wonderful.

  • cestmoi

    If it was truly affordable today, I would live in it. I think it has a certain Mid Century Modern appeal.

    • dfwenigma

      Wright would love that young people see Usonians as “mid century” but not “modern”. I really do wonder how he would react to that. When he received van der Rohe he was very much the master. And van der Rohe at first was amused but grew tired of the concept. If we think about it “modern” really refers to a period from about 1900 or so to around 1930 – with a lot of different derivatives in between.

      But mid-century modern really was the 1950s through to about 1980 or so. And that wasn’t really Wright’s conception at the beginning. He led and rarely followed and frankly this infuriated people. Stanley Marcus of Neiman Marcus fame fired him outright. But then Henry Ford had done the same fifty years earlier.

      Wright had no business sense so infuriating an unfaithful customer (and he did see relationships with customers like marriages) was the norm not the exception. Early Usonian adopters recognised that this was cheap housing, but cheap as in 1937, not 1957. Wright died in 1959 and he had work on the drawing board that would comfortably keep the Taliesan fellows busy for at least seven years.

      I believe if the last Mrs. Wright hadn’t been such a bully the Fellowship would still exist today. He didn’t have the interest in rebuffing her he had had with his other wives. Wright married strong women and wanted strong women around him. His mother was very strong, if not a tiny bit abusive. So the Usonians were heavily influenced by the last Mrs. Wright. She knew NOTHING about architectural design, nor did she have particularly great taste. But she was like a courtier in Louis XIV’s palace. She knew how to use palace intrigue to control.

      The later Usonians were very interesting and more nuanced. Wright was definitely in charge but you can see the pencil marks of men like his son-in-law, who was a fine architect. And you can see others who were students at the time. Wright wanted the overall design to be all his and he would change details down to the last moment, so massive overruns were the norm. Even with the Usonians. And Wright new better.

      Usonian owners weren’t rich like Hib Johnson with his nearly half a million dollar Wingspread. Nor did they have the money and vanity of say an Edgar Kauffman who hired engineers to prop up his rather risky designs – directed the local men – and then made it all disappear if Mr. Wright came in for a visit. And still Fallingwater’s cantilever failed. It would have fallen over completely if massive money and engineering hadn’t been applied.

      When you see the Usonians you see a lot of details that are sometimes a bit – well – not so well done. Corners that aren’t as plumb as they should be. Lights that perhaps were moved from their original design. Lots of little things that one must train one’s eye to see. Wright had his faults.

      But make no mistake, if you can afford a Usonian, and it can be done I think for about $350,000 here in Texas – about $600K everywhere else – it would be a genius abode well worth having. If you see a Usonian from the 1930s era what you notice is the sheer beauty of oneness. The absolute unity. And how the building rises from the earth and envelopes it. As much of a pompous *** as Mr. Wright could be – as infuriating, charming and frustrating as he was – he really was a genius. People that can’t see that will, one day.

    • saucetin

      Bonne idée! Now I’m all nostalgic for Palm Springs.

  • chknmurph

    Architect of record: Mesick Cohen Wilson Baker Architects

  • dfwenigma

    Frank Lincoln Wright said to Mike Wallace in an interview, referring to the Robie House, “It was good when it was built in 1908, it is good in 1957 and it will be good in 100 years.” And so it is. Wright was many things: scoundrel, bellicose, enigmatic, brilliant, thief, gentle, mean, great, small – but through it all – he may well be America’s greatest architect.

    The Usonian Automatic was without a doubt his greatest invention. It contains so many incredible features that even today few really understand it. They look at it, they see a “ranch style house”, they seem complex blocks that are difficult to produce, they see houses that are far, far cheaper to create.

    What they do not see is so much greater than what they do. Sadly it may be another 100 years before the majority will look at the Rosenbaum House or at the Pope-Leighy House or at Fallingwater, the Edgar Kaufman house, and actually understand what they see. Unlike the work of architects of renown such as Schindler, Breuer, van der Rohe and the like, Wright attempted to create a new concept of organic architecture.

  • KWK

    It’s attractive from the outside, but like too many of Wright’s Usonian designs, the glazing is clustered on only one side of a room, giving a dismal, cave-like illumination to those rooms. I never cared for his built-in furniture, either. I visited FSC many years ago, and this building is a fitting addition – good on them!

  • Miriam Lasington

    Wow, very nice! Love his work.

  • dfwenigma

    I think the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and the Trust own the rights to all intellectual property. However, that which is in the public domain is in the public domain. The Taliesin Fellowship no longer exists. It was not financially feasible to keep it going. Several projects went belly up. Ironic. Even the School of Architecture, which is based in both Spring Green and Scottsdale, has been in dire straights several times.