Japanese Influence in the Works of Frank Lloyd Wright


Frank Lloyd Wright (June 8, 1867 – April 9, 1959) was a renowned 20th century American architect, Interior designer, educator and writer. He designed over a thousand structures, 532 of them having been completed. Wright believed in a philosophy he called organic architecture, where designing a particular structure in harmony with humanity and its environment.

Frank Lloyd Wright in 1926.

Wright also loved to travel, he wrote 20 books and numerous articles and was a popular lecturer in the United States and Europe.

Frank Lloyd Wright and his vision

The famous architect was the pioneer of what is known as the “Prairie School movement of architecture”, an architectural style most common in the Midwestern United States. It made use of horizontal lines to evoke the vast expanses of America’s native prairie landscape. Wright also developed the concept of the Usonian home in Broadacre City. “Usonian Homes” were middle-income family homes that were typically single-story, without a garage and were often L-shaped to fit around a garden terrace. There are about sixty homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright that began in 1934 with the Willey House ,  though some consider the 1937 Herbert and Katherine Jacobs First House, to be the true “Usonian”.

Japanese influence in Wright’s works

Frank Lloyd Wright acknowledged having three influences for his works namely: his childhood toys, the Froebel Kindergarten Gifts, his mentor, Louis Henri Sullivan and the Japanese woodblock print of which he was an avid collector and used them as teaching aids with his apprentices in what were called “print parties”.

Imperial Hotel by Frank Lloyd Wright

Wright made his first trip to Japan in 1905 and returned in 1913. Between 1917 and 1922, he spent almost three full years in the country as the architect of the New Imperial Hotel in Tokyo.  Wright was outspoken about his admiration for Japan and how the country inspired him. Japanese prints are said to be the center of his attraction to Japan. Wright once described japan as being “the most romantic, artistic, nature-inspired country on earth.”

Some of Wrights notable works in Japan

Frank Lloyd Wright designed the new Imperial Hotel in 1912, first designed by Yuzuru Watanabe. Wright spent 11 years nurturing the project to completion. The Imperial hotel survived the 1923 Great Kantō  earthquake but was demolishes in 1968 due to urban developmental pressures.

Jiyu Gakuen Girl’s School by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1921, Japan.

The Jiyu Gakuen Girls’ School is located in a quiet Tokyo neighborhood, one of the few Wright structures still standing in Japan.  The building complex is a U-shaped campus that includes a central chapel, classrooms and an auditorium and was completed in 1921. The school relocated in the 1930’s but the building was restored in 1999 and 2001 and now serves as a venue for weddings and other events.

Up until his later designs, Wright was fascinated by the essence of nature. He also valued the Japanese reverence and respect for natural surroundings as is seen in his works.