Frank Lloyd Wright at Drawing Matter


Editors and Nicholas Olsberg

Cast-concrete block from Midway Gardens at Shatwell Farm. Photo: Jesper Authen.

The Frank Lloyd Wright collection is of primary interest from 1936 to 1951, and especially for a small group of studies and presentations for the shaping of domestic space, dwelling within landscape, and interior fittings. There are also important isolated drawings for a prairie house, Midway Gardens, the Johnson Administration Building, and the late Wyoming Valley school; and there is an extensive file in typescript of occasional writings from the 1930s. Wright saw his process and presentation drawings as the record of architectural principles and imagination at work, exhibited and published them from the first years of practice with exceptional scope and refinement, and regarded them as a corpus essential to his legacy. Despite Wright’s determination to maintain the integrity of the archive, a number of drawings left the studio or estate over the years. Any collection is supplementary to the archives of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation—the estate of the architect and practice—housed at the Avery Library in New York. [1]

To view the complete Drawing Matter Collections of Frank Lloyd Wright, click here.

Project Drawings, 1906–1956

Mrs. Harry E. Brown House, Geneseo, Illinois, 1906

Principal elevation of a substantial and strikingly advanced prairie house, apparently unbuilt but anticipating the garden façade of the Avery Coonley residence one year later. The drawing, already in the manner developed for the Wasmuth plates of 1909–11, is that from which the hard line measured presentation perspective in the FLW Foundation Archives was derived. 

Elevation, Mrs. Harry E. Brown House, Geneseo, Illinois, 1906. Pencil on tracing paper, 310 × 660 mm. DMC 3062.

Midway Gardens, Chicago, Illinois, 1914

The sheet, close to the executed, and later remounted by Wright as a Japanese scroll for an exhibition in Tokyo in which he presented the proposed language for the concrete elements of the Imperial Hotel. The collection also houses a concrete block in the feather pattern filling the mezzanine walls in the courtyards of the Garden, retrieved from the site when Midway Gardens was demolished.

Read more about Midway Gardens here.

Study sketch elevations, Midway Gardens, Chicago, Illinois, 1913. Pencil on rice paper, 502 × 387 mm. DMC 1289.

S.C. Johnson Company Administration Building, Racine, Wisconsin, 1936

Comprehensive general plans and sections, with three details of lighting and steel furnishing, on 12 sheets of drawing or blueprint. Notable is a coloured sheet of elevations for the standard desk and chair. 

Triplicate Cantilever Office Desk, S.C. Johnson Company Administration Building, Racine, Wisconsin, 1936. Pencil and yellow crayon on tracing paper, 610 × 872 mm. DMC 3224.3.

Kaufmann House ‘Fallingwater’, Bear Run, Pennsylvania, 1939

Three drawings including a sheet of schematic drawings of ‘revised’ east and west elevations, very close to those presented on sheet 3602.11 in the FLW Foundation archive; plan and elevation of metal shelves for the living room; and a plot plan completed in relation to additions in 1939.

Revised elevations, Kaufmann House ‘Fallingwater’, Bear Run, Pennsylvania, 1936. Pencil on tracing paper, 460 × 1058 mm. DMC 1852.3.
Plot plan, Kaufmann House ‘Fallingwater’, Bear Run, Pennsylvania, 1939. Pencil on tracing paper, 380 × 550 mm. DMC 1852.2.

Carlson House ‘Below Zero’, Superior, Wisconsin, 1942

Elevation and plan dated August 1939, for the unbuilt small house project known as ‘Below Zero’, with extensive correspondence discussing design, materials, and construction between Wright and the owner Edith Carlson, and subsequently Roy Peterson who took up the design for a site in Racine. Neither client could build in the difficult conditions of the time.

Elevation and plan, Carlson House, Superior, Wisconsin, 1939. Pencil and coloured crayon on tracing paper, 1050 × 440 mm. DMC 1810.
Correspondence, Carlson House, Superior, Wisconsin, 1939. Typescript. DMC 1809.

Affleck House, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, 1940

Sheet detailing kitchen fittings and standard movable furniture from a set of working drawings for one of a series of model small houses, developed in 1938–40, that constitute the generative corpus of Wright’s ‘Usonian’ domestic work—these were exhibited through painted models and some drawings (including those for Affleck) as the centrepiece of the major exhibition ‘Frank Lloyd Wright, American Architect’ at the Museum of Modern Art, 1940–41. 

Workspace and furniture details, Affleck House, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, 1940. Pencil and coloured crayon on thin paper, 560 × 910 mm. DMC 3475.

Oboler House ‘Eaglefeather’, Malibu, California, 1940

Colour perspective from below for the main house of ‘Eaglefeather’— a hilltop retreat complex which remained largely incomplete. This is probably one of the five drawings for the project prepared for and exhibited in the Museum of Modern Art exhibition of 1940–41. The artist was Allen Lape Davidson in the Taliesin studio, who made a second version of this view in half light, with the moon.

Perspective, Oboler House, Malibu, California, 1940. Graphite pencil and coloured pencil on tracing paper, 559 × 900 mm. DMC 1298.

Usonia Homes, Pleasantville, New York, 1947

Blueprint copy of a topographical site plan prepared by the original owners’ group from Wright’s design for the first and largest of three postwar exurban cooperative housing colonies—though in this case only a small number of the houses were built to his design.  

Topographical survey, Usonia Homes, Pleasantville, New York, 1947. Blueprint, 495 × 1500 mm. DMC 3447.
Sol Friedman Residence, Pleasantville, New York, 1948.
Edward Serlin Residence, Pleasantville, New York, 1949.
Roland Reisley Residence, Pleasantville, New York, 1951.

Broad Margin’, Greenville, South Carolina, 1951

Site and general plan showing the relationship to an extensive topography and natural landscape for a typical Usonian house in hip-roof and stone geared to a sloping site, known as ‘Broad Margin’.

Site plan and general plan, Broad Margin, Greenville, South Carolina, 1951. Pencil, pen, coloured inks and crayons on tracing paper, 580 × 915 mm. DMC 2952.

Wyoming Valley Schoolhouse, Spring Green, Wisconsin, 1956

An early scheme in field-stone with a continuous range of windows above, as yet without the central chimney that appears in drawings and plans for subsequent models. The project, later built with a shallower base in concrete and without the central pitched roof, can be seen at this stage as a clear reminiscence of unbuilt work of the early 1920s, such as the residences for Japan, the Kindersymphonies, and the Lake Tahoe colony—and in clear conversation with Taliesin, three miles to the north. Studio perspective probably in the hand of A. Louis Wiehle.

Colour perspective; preliminary scheme, Wyoming Valley Schoolhouse, Spring Green, Wisconsin, 1956. Coloured pencil on paper, 635 × 235 mm. DMC 1288.


Typescript copies, some annotated, of a substantial number of talks, essays, manifestos and memoirs by Wright during the first period of the Frank Lloyd Wright School and Fellowship at Taliesin. Many appeared around the time of the publications of Taliesin talks and elsewhere, but most are fugitive, and some appear to be unique. Notable are a critique of geometrical abstraction in architectural form; the first proposal for the Hillside School of the Allied Arts; and a riposte to criticisms of his 1939 lectures in London. 

Typescript article, page 1 of 5, ‘To the Fifty-Eight’, 1939. Typescript with hand amendments, 280 × 217 mm. DMC 3491.

IMPRINTS, 1925–1946

Perspective, plan, and axonometrics, “Modern” House for Blackbourns, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1938. Print, 355 × 270 mm. DMC 2900.2.

Printed plans and drawings published for execution as one of ‘Eight Houses for Modern Living’ in Life Magazine, September 26, 1938. The plans are based on a house known as ‘Still Bend’, which was initially built in Two Rivers, Wisconsin for Fern Schwartz.

Wendingen: The Life-Work of the American Architect Frank Lloyd Wright, 7 volumes. Imprint, 335 × 335 mm. DMC 3053.1-7.

Hendrik Wijdeveld, ed., Frank Lloyd Wright: The Early Work of the Great Architect, in seven issues of Wendingen, 1925.

Design for a New Year card from Taliesin Fellowship, 1946. Pen, ink, red, blue and gold paint on laid paper, 205 × 279 mm. DMC 2498.

Taliesin greeting card, designed by Eugene Masselink, for New Year 1946, with abstractions of built works and landscapes by Wright falling along a horizon. 

Broadacre City, 1934–1958. Print, signed in pencil, 462 × 727 mm. DMC 3353.

Printed flyer copy, 1958, of the plan and key to Broadacre City, 1934.

Publication, The Architectural Forum, 1938. Imprint, 305 × 235 mm. DMC 3352.

‘Frank Lloyd Wright,’ The Architectural Forum, January 1938.


  1. We are grateful to Janet Parks for additional comments.

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