• Course Code:  Arch 402

  • Term:  Fall 2014

  • Open for Enrollment

  • Self-paced

  • Course Author(s)
    Open Online Academy
Frank lloyd wright image

Frank Lloyd Wright and the 20th Century

Fall 2014

  • Ivan shumkov sq
    Ivan Shumkov
  • Lobellpratt
    John Lobell

Course Summary



Frank Lloyd Wright is one of the most important architects of the 20th century, and indeed is widely regarded as the greatest American architect. Why is he so regarded?


Of course Wright’s buildings are beautiful, from his early Robie House stretched into the American Midwestern prairie, to Fallingwater nestled into a hill with a waterfall running under it, to his Guggenheim Museum with its spiraling ramp.  But these are design features, beautiful yes, but are they enough to make Wright one of the 20th century’s most important cultural figures?  No.  There must be more, and there is.


Europe and America in the 20th century are marked by decentering.  Everything we had held on to dissolved beneath us.  European empires, some of which saw their ancestry in ancient Rome disappeared, as did their architecture.  The modernism ushered in by Wright played a major role in the disappearance of that architecture.  The centrality of the human presence symbolized by the dome in Palladio’s Villa Rotonda and extended into the architecture of the Beaux Arts disappeared as we blended into Nature.  Wright’s Open Plan played a major role in that and other aspects of 20th century decentering.


At the same time, through his Organic Architecture, Wright played a major role in bringing “the East” to “the West” with an architecture that redefined humans as integral with nature.


In this course we will look at Wright’s life, career and work in some detail, and then examine his role in ushering in the 20th century and bringing key ideas from the East into the West.


This course will greatly enrich your understanding of 20th century architecture, will inform your own work, whether you are an architect or involved in other creative endeavors, and will enrich you are a person.



Week 1: Introduction

Week 2: Early Work

Week 3: Wright in the 1920s

Week 4: Wright in the 1930s 

Week 5: Wright in the 1950s 

Week 6: Patterns in Wright's  Work 

Week 7: Wright and the 20th Century

Week 8: Organic Architecture and Wright's Worldview



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.

Those completing the course requirements, including viewing all lectures, participation in the discussion groups, taking quizzes, and passing the final exam, will be offered a Certificate from Open Online Academy.
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.


John Lobell has a widely ranging mind, addressing how new technology changes structures of consciousness, which in turn leads to cultural paradigm shifts affecting every corner of our lives.

Lobell received his architecture degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, and is a professor of architecture at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. His interests include architecture, cultural theory, consciousness, mythology, Buddhism, information theory, and generative genomics.  He is the author numerous articles, and has lectured and addressed conferences throughout the country. He is the author of several books, including “Between Silence and Light: Spirit in the Architecture of Louis I. Kahn:”

Lobell has taught courses on Frank Lloyd Wright for over forty years, looking at Wright in cultural context. 

You can find out more about John Lobell at:  http://johnlobell.com/

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Frank Lloyd Wright and the 20th Century


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