House & Home

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Kansas City legacy

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright
Architect Frank Lloyd Wright AP

Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959)

One of the 20th century’s best-known architects, the prolific Frank Lloyd Wright, designed and completed more than 500 offices, skyscrapers, schools, museums, churches and hotels across the country during his 70-year career.

A pioneer in “organic architecture,” the inimitable designer believed buildings should complement their environments. He is perhaps most famous for Fallingwater, a home constructed over a 30-foot waterfall in the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania. Wright was also credited with developing prairie-style and open-plan houses.

Describing architects as “poets” who must be “original interpreters” of their eras, Wright coined the term “Usonian” to describe the small, inexpensive, single-story homes he hoped would become the new norm across America. Typically lacking a garage or much storage, the homes are constructed with native materials and feature natural lighting, solar heating and carports.

The Sondern-Adler House in Kansas City is a usonian home.

In the 1940s and ’50s, Wright designed several other structures in town, including Community Christian Church just east of the Plaza. Wright claimed it would be “fireproof, earthquake proof, and vermin proof.” The church’s most notable feature is the Steeple of Light, which projects four columns of light skyward and is visible from as far as 10 miles away.

Spending the early part of his life in Oak Park, Ill., Wright and his wife raised six children in their first home, which is now a museum. In 1991, the American Institute of Architects named him “the greatest American architect of all time.”