Now for the most interesting fact I have yet to learn about organic architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright and his thousand something buildings he designed…
It also taught me his secret…the one thing that people perceive but have no idea how he does it.
First I will paraphrase it (it’s actually more how I interpret it) and then give you the passage he wrote referring to it.
“Horizontal is of the earth. To go vertical, an object must earn it. It must be of nature or ethereal, beautiful and heavenly.” – J. Adams 2012
“What the heck does that mean?”, I know you are asking…
Horizontal Emphasis on Brick Joints - One of Wright's tricks! Click image to see close up.
…It means most surfaces on FLW’s buildings were emphasizing the horizontal. In fact, he would go to great length’s and expense to make sure the ‘grounded elements’ of the structure were horizontally emphasized. He would even ‘rake’ the horizontal joints of bricks and match the mortar color to that of the brick to hide the verticalness of the brick. (see picture of Robie house in Chicago).
You can see it in the brick, in the horizontal board and batten, in his solid looking foundations, his cantilevers, his furniture surfaces, ceilings and roofs.
HORIZONTAL – SOLID – RISING SLOWLY FROM THE EARTH – OF THE EARTH.
Now, for an object to be grandly displayed or emphasized in the vertical plane, he would make sure it was worthy of that. It would usually be a large window showing the nature outside, a lighted window shape or stained glass window letting in natural light, art, plants, people, furniture of an ethereal nature (dining chairs), water or water feature, sculptures, special metals or anything else of great beauty that he wanted you to look at specifically.
To me, it was his way of showing you the nature of your surroundings…the nature mirrored in your home. It is the tree or flower rising from the prairie. It is the waterfall. It is a human standing or even sitting. This is GREATLY juxtaposed next to SOLID HORIZONTAL NATURAL AND DOMINANT MATERIALS.
Here is how he describes it in “The Natural House“.
I loved the praire by instinct as itself a great simplicity; the trees, flowers, and sky were thrilling by contrast. And I saw that a little of height on the prairie was enough to look like much more. Notice how every detail as to height becomes intensely significant and how breadths all fall short. Here was a tremendous spaciousness needlessly sacrificed, all cut up crosswise or lengthwise into 50-foot lots, or would you have 25 feet? Reduced to a money-matter, salesmanship kept on parceling out the ground, selling it with no restrictions. Everywhere, in great new, free country, I could see only this mean tendency to tip everything in the way of human occupation or habitation up edgewise instead of letting it lie comfortably flatwise with the ground where spaciousness was a virtue…
I had an idea (it seems to be my own) that the planes parallel to the earth in buildings identify themselves with the ground, do most to make the buildings belong to the ground.
He goes on to describe the general idea of the house from there but in those paragraphs, I learned Frank Lloyd Wright’s trick and made it my own…Horizontal means earth, vertical reaches to the heavens (even though I know FLW was not a very religious man).