8 Wright Sites Added to UNESCO World Heritage List

John Hill
8. July 2019
Top to bottom, left to right: Unity Temple, Robie House, Taliesin, Hollyhock House, Fallingwater, Jacobs House, Taliesin West, Guggenheim Museum (Photo via Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation)

Eight buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and built in the United States between 1909 and 1959 have been added to UNESCO's World Heritage List, which considers inscribed sites "to be of outstanding value to humanity."

The inscription happened on Sunday, July 7, at the 43rd session of the World Heritage Committee, which took place in Baku. The announcement comes just over four years after ten buildings designed by Wright were submitted to UNESCO, though according to the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, which coordinated the effort, the nomination has been in development for more than 15 years.

The oldest of the eight buildings is Unity Temple, completed in 1909 in Wright's then-hometown of Oak Park, Illinois, while the youngest is the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City, which was completed in 1959, the year Wright died at the age of 91 (he did not live long enough to see its opening).

Unity Temple (Photo © Unity Temple Restoration Foundation)
The eight Wright sites:

  • Unity Temple, Oak Park, Illinois, 1909
  • Frederick C. Robie House, Chicago, Illinois, 1910
  • Taliesin, Spring Green, Wisconsin, 1911
  • Hollyhock House, Los Angeles, California, 1921
  • Herbert and Katherine Jacobs House, Madison, Wisconsin, 1937
  • Taliesin West, Scottsdale, Arizona, 1938
  • Fallingwater, Mill Run, Pennsylvania, 1939
  • Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY, 1959

The two buildings missing from the ten submitted in 2015 are Price Tower in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and Marin County Civic Center in San Rafael, California.

Hollyhock House (Photo: Joshua White © Hollyhock House)
The UNESCO announcement:

The 20th century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright (United States of America) – The property consists of eight buildings in the United States designed by the architect during the first half of the 20th century. These include the Fallingwater (Mill Run, Pennsylvania), the Herbert and Katherine Jacobs House (Madison, Wisconsin) and the Guggenheim Museum (New York). These buildings reflect the “organic architecture” developed by Wright, which includes an open plan, a blurring of the boundaries between exterior and interior and the unprecedented use of materials such as steel and concrete. Each of these buildings offers innovative solutions to the needs for housing, worship, work or leisure. Wright's work from this period had a strong impact on the development of modern architecture in Europe.

Fallingwater (Photo: Christopher Little © Western Pennsylvania Conservancy)

The grouping of eight buildings is one of only 24 sites in the United States on the World Heritage List, which totals 1,121 properties as of the end of the 43rd session. Furthermore, they are the only modern structures from the US on the list. Although eight sites sounds like a generous number, they make up only about 2% of Wright's nearly 400 surviving buildings, and the number is not even half of the 17 works (ten in France) by Le Corbusier that were added to the list in 2016. Nevertheless, the addition of "20th century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright" to UNESCO's World Heritage List "reconfirm[s] how important Frank Lloyd Wright was to the development of modern architecture around the world," per the Conservancy, and makes a strong case for the continued preservation of his legacy.

Guggenheim Museum (Photo: David Heald © Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum)

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