Frank Lloyd Wright and the 20th Century


This Frank Lloyd Wright and the 20th Century course will look at Frank Lloyd Wright in the context of 20th century culture, and examine parallels between his work and that of other 20th century figures. Architecture is the crystallization of the spirit of its age, and this certainly applies to the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright (1867 – 1959). Wright pioneered Modern Architecture in response to industrialization, new materials, and changes in society. Then he created a new home for the 20th century in response to the decentering brought about by the end of perspective painting, the end of absolute space and time in physics, and end of a privileged position for humans in science and society. And Wright created a new notion of who we can be as human beings, bringing together the individual of the West, and the integration in the flow of nature of the East.
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Before Wright, most architecture was based on the past, as we see, for example in the Beaux Arts that referred back to ancient Rome. After Wright, architecture, including that of the leading European Modern Architects, was based on an honest expression of the functions, spaces, materials, and structure of a building. Wright worked in the Midwestern United States, a region that prided itself on being remote Europe, where he developed a uniquely American, modern, and democratic architecture.

We begin with a brief overview of Wright’s work, a biographical sketch, and a look at the architecture at the time he began his career. Then we go into some depth on each of Wright’s major works: his Prairie Style houses, Fallingwater, Johnson Wax, the Guggenheim Museum, and more.

But we are not done. Next we will look at the culture of decentering that defined the 20th century and Wright’s role in its unfolding. And finally we will look at what Wright meant by Organic Architecture, and how it unifies the cultures of the West and the East and creates the potential for a new way of being human.

Frank Lloyd Wright Course Structure

1. Introduction
2. Early Work
3. Wright in the 1920s
4. Wright in the 1930s
5. Wright in the 1950s
6. Patterns in Wright’s Work
7. Wright and the 20th Century
8. Organic Architecture and Wright’s Worldview
9. Final Exam Guidelines and Text

Learning Outcomes

On completing this course you will be familiar with the arc of Frank Lloyd Wright’s career and have an in-depth understanding of some of his key buildings. You will understand how the relationship between Wright’s architecture and that of key European architects, as well as with Picasso’s Cubism and Einstein’s relativity. You will understand how the 20th century decentered us in every aspect of our lives. You will have an understanding of how architecture is the crystallization of its culture, why architecture is called the mother of the arts, and how architecture embodies and even creates our notion of who we are as human beings. And you will have the ability to apply this broad approach to the understanding of art, architecture, and culture to other areas of your interests.


Your main obligation is to watch, absorb, and enjoy the lectures. Reading and the viewing of online videos is at a minimum. Watch the lectures and enjoy the images and descriptions of some of the most important buildings of the 20th century.

If you have time to watch the videos and do some brief reading and viewing of online videos, you have time to take this course.


You will be assigned discussion groups on suggested topics, and there will be a peer graded final exam.


The course certificate by Build Academy could be purchased separately by people who complete the course. The two certificates available for the course are: basic, CEU-CPD. You can include the certificate in your CV and LinkedIn profile. We can also provide you with reference letters for job or school applications and promotions.

Modern Architecture Course Materials

The recommended textbook for the course is “Frank Lloyd Wright,” by Robert McCarter. However, this is not required.

Frank Lloyd Write course prerequisites

No prior knowledge is necessary for this course. All of the material is fully explained. At the same time, those with a broad cultural background and or an architectural background will also get a lot out of this course.


Prof. John Lobell

John Lobell is a professor of architecture at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, where he teaches courses in the history and theory of architecture, including a course on Frank Lloyd Wright.

He also teaches courses on the cultural and social impact of new technologies, addressing how they change our consciousness, which in turn leads to paradigm shifts that affect every aspect of our lives.

Lobell received his architecture degrees from the University of Pennsylvania. He has lectured and addressed conferences around the world, and is the author numerous articles and of several books, including Between Silence and Light: Spirit in the Architecture of Louis I. Kahn.


Do I need to buy a textbook?

PDFs related to the lectures will be posted online for students to download so that they can review the images and text in the lectures.

Additional information


Basic Certificate, CPD-CEU Certificate