Collection 1880s–1940s

Frank Lloyd Wright. American System-Built Houses for The Richards Company project (Exterior perspective of model A231). 1915–1917 573

Lithograph, 11 x 8 1/2" (27.9 x 21.6 cm). Gift of David Rockefeller, Jr. Fund, Ira Howard Levy Fund, and Jeffrey P. Klein Purchase Fund. © 2023 Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Professor, Michael Osman: For Wright, engaging in the factory was really about democratizing access to houses more generally, but also of course to his own authored beautiful houses.

So in the 19-teens when he's approached by the Richards company, the labor market is very expensive in the US. And as a result, engaging in factory labor would've made sense.

By the 1930s, during the Great Depression, labor is very cheap. So Wright moves away from factory-made houses precisely because he can make houses as he always wanted to in the most beautifully crafted way possible with intricate and incredibly beautiful details.

The difference between a prefabricated house made in the factory and the houses that we're looking at here is that these houses were made actually by Master Craftsmen. The idea was to capitalize on the cheap labor market during the Great Depression and give access to people who otherwise wouldn't have access to Frank Lloyd Wright houses.