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FA 0440 Frank Lloyd Wright (Spring 2012) Writing Enhanced

FA 0440 Frank Lloyd Wright (WE)

University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown

248 Biddle Hall

T-Th 3:30 p.m. to 4:50 p.m.

Spring 2012


Dr. Valerie S. Grash, Associate Professor of Fine Arts

Office: 230B Biddle Hall

Phone: 269-7164         


Office Hours:  Tuesdays & Thursdays, 12:30-2:00 p.m.; and by appointment.



This course is a comprehensive study of master architect Frank Lloyd Wright, carefully examining his life, his career and his ideas. Beginning with his unique childhood, we will chronologically examine not only those people and forces that influenced him, but also study his development as an architect. A close examination of his major works and various periods in his career will reveal several dominant themes that emerged in his designs. Additionally, we will discuss other modern architectural movements and important architects, either who influenced Wright or upon which he made an impact.

At the conclusion of this course, you will:

  1. Possess a complete understanding of Frank Lloyd Wright's unique life and personality.
  2. Recognize his architectural works and fully comprehend his distinct vision of architecture and society.
  3. Be able to contextualize modern architectural movements and architects.
  4. Write expressively and thoughtfully about architecture.

Required Textbooks:

  • Robert C. Twombly, Frank Lloyd Wright: His Life and His Architecture (Wiley-Interscience, 1987) ISBN-13: 978-0471857976
  • Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead (Signet, 1996) ISBN-13: 978-0451191151 (however, any printing will do)
Course Web Site:

Additional textual and visual materials for this course (including monuments and terms covered in lecture); original documents and required readings; your grades; and pertinent announcements concerning class meetings and examinations are found at:

Notice Regarding Course Changes:

I reserve the right to modify the timing, order and content of the course schedule. It is your responsibility to attend class and be aware of any changes. Check with the course web site regarding any class cancellations should they become necessary due to adverse weather conditions or other situations.

Please note: this is a Writing Enhanced course, which means a significant amount of writing is involved. This is not meant to overwhelm you, but instead aid in your development as a thoughtful thinker and writer of ideas.

Course Policies

Please carefully read the following-they are policies that I steadfastly maintain in this course.

Faculty Statement:

My role is to facilitate learning through lecture and clarification of specific points through questioning and discussion, whether in the classroom, during office hours or via electronic correspondence. It is your responsibility to attend class, take accurate notes and approach me with any questions and issues for clarification in a timely manner.


While there is no attendance policy for this course, be forewarned that what you will be tested on is discussed thoroughly in class. Even with the textbook, nothing replaces viewing the images projected on screen. Therefore, regular attendance is necessary to succeed in this course. In addition, as classroom discussion is expected, poor attendance will adversely affect you if it comes down to a borderline decision on your final grade.

Notes and Note Taking:

Under no circumstances do I provide notes for missed classes. It is your responsibility, if you miss a class, to acquire the lecture notes from a classmate. Class assignments and announcements are also available on the course website. You may tape-record lectures as long as you do not disturb others in the class.

Cell Phones:

Be certain your cell phone is turned OFF, as it is both annoying and disruptive to the entire class when it rings. Anyone sending or receiving text messages will be asked to leave-this course deserves your full attention. If you can't do that, drop the class immediately.

Makeup Exams:

I give make-up exams only in cases with legitimate, documented reasons (death in the family, personal hospitalization, required fieldtrips, etc.). In such cases, inform me in advance and provide written confirmation of your absence. Do not assume every absence is excused or warrants special consideration. The alternative make-up exam must be taken within one week of the scheduled test; only one makeup exam per student will be permitted. No one can make-up the final exam, which must be taken at the scheduled time.

Late Assignments:

No extensions are granted for class assignments. Due dates are clearly noted on the syllabus at the beginning of the semester. You should start each assignment in a timely manner and even complete assignments early. Illness or any other excuse has no bearing on the fact that your work was not turned in on time. Any assignment not turned in by the due date will not be graded, thus earning 0 points for the work. No exceptions are permitted so do not ask!

Academic Integrity Policy:

Please read carefully the Academic Integrity Guidelines in your student handbook. They will be followed to the letter in this course. There is ZERO tolerance for cheating or plagiarism. Any time that you use another person's words or thoughts as your own without giving them proper credit is plagiarism, including copying and pasting from the Internet. Any instance of cheating or plagiarism will result in an automatic "F" (0 points) for that assignment, and steps will be taken, according to the Academic Integrity Guidelines, to receive an "F" for the course and for action leading to expulsion from the university. I will not permit re-writing any suspected plagiarized assignment.


Students with disabilities who may be requesting academic accommodations for this course should notify the course instructor and the Office of Disability Services, as early as possible in the term.  The Director of Disability Services will verify the disability and determine reasonable accommodations for the course.  To schedule an appointment or to learn more about these services at UPJ, please call extension 7109 or visit the Academic Support Center in G -16 Owen Library. 


Grading and Course Requirements

Overall, you can earn 500 points during the semester. On this scale:


500-490 (A+)                            489-465 (A)                               464-450 (A-)

449-440 (B+)                            439-415 (B)                               414-400 (B-)

399-390 (C+)                            389-365 (C)                               364-350 (C-)

349-300 (D)                              299 and below (F)


Your grade will be determined in the following manner:

Examinations (360 points total):

There will be three exams (February 7, March 15, and April 23) during the semester, each worth 120 points. The format will comprise of multiple choice questions and essay questions drawn from class notes and readings. The final will NOT be comprehensive, but only will cover the material since the previous exam.

Short Writing Assignments (90 points total):

You will complete three short (2-3 typewritten, double-spaced pages) writing assignments during the semester, each worth 30 points. These assignments will provoke not only self-examination of your reactions to architecture, but also sharpen your evaluation of Frank Lloyd Wright and his ideas. Specific guidelines for each assignment are provided on the course web site. These assignments (with due dates) are:

#1   Descriptive Analysis Essay of Your Home (January 26)

#2   Critical Article Review (February 23)

#3   Reaction to Mike Wallace Interviews (March 27)

Course Project (50 points):

You will complete one of the following projects:

  1. Create a physical 3-D architectural model of a specific Wright building, accompanied by a short (2-3 pages) documented paper outlining the building's history and main characteristics.
  2. Create a comprehensive scrapbook consisting of a floor plan and elevation drawings of YOUR ideal home, with accompanying commentary (2-3 pages) outlining the building's placement, location, style, materials and layout. You should include discussion of how Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural ideas influenced your choices-or not.

Specific guidelines for the project are posted on the course web site. Please follow these carefully in order to insure you adequately fulfill the requirements for the assignment. The course project is due: April 19.


Course Schedule

January 05     Course Introduction

January 10     Wright's Family and Formative Years

January 12     Henry Hobson Richardson and Other Early Influences on Frank Lloyd Wright

January 17     Liebermeister: The Architecture and Writings of Louis Sullivan

January 19     World Columbian Exposition of 1893, and the Emergence of the "White City"

January 24     Nineteenth Century Domestic Architecture, and Wright's Oak Park Home and Studio

January 26     The Prairie School Houses (Short Writing Assignment #1 due)

January 31     Corporate Paternalism: The Larkin Building, and Wright in Buffalo, NY

February 02   Unity Temple and Frederick Robie House: Last Years in Chicago

February 07   Exam I

February 09   European Contact: De Stijl, The Bauhaus and European Modernism

February 14   Taliesin (Spring Green, WI) and Tragedy

February 16   Wright in Japan: Imperial Hotel

February 21   California Homes: Meso-American Experiments

February 23   Taliesin West and the Taliesin Fellowship (Short Writing Assignment #2 due)

February 28   Broadacre City: Utopian Dreams for Urban Living

March 01       Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927)

March 06       No Class-Spring Recess

March 08       No Class-Spring Recess

March 13       Usonian: Middle Class Homes for Americans

March 15       Exam II

March 20       Mike Wallace Interviews with Wright

March 22       Wingspread, and Johnson Wax Administration Building and Research Tower (Racine, WI)

March 27       Fallingwater: Introduction (Short Writing Assignment #3 due)  

March 29       Fallingwater and Wright-Kaufmann Projects for Pittsburgh

April 03         In-Class Discussion of Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead

April 05         Wright Addressing the Tall Building

April 10         Marin County Civic Center (San Raphael, CA) and City Center Designs

April 12         Wright's Late Religious Structures: Beth Shalom and Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church

April 17         Guggenheim Museum (New York, NY): Rethinking the Art Museum

April 19         Wright's Legacy (Course Project due)           

Final Exam: Monday, April 23, 12:30-2:30 p.m.


Last Reviewed: August 21, 2007