You can’t get it in a university, you can’t get it here, you can’t get it anywhere except as you love it, love the feeling of it, desire and pursue it.
– Frank Lloyd Wright on ideas and creation
It turns out that you don’t need a college degree (or even college instruction) to design buildings. Consider famed 20th-century American architect Frank Lloyd Wright:
- Didn’t finish high school. Admitted into college anyway. Didn’t finish college.
- Declined a four-year scholarship-funded education at prestigious French École des Beaux-Arts (School of Fine Arts)
- Found his work as a draftsman at the age of twenty. Designed 532 completed buildings in his lifetime.
Though Lloyd’s own parents were both involved in the formal school system, Lloyd confessed to finding one of his most formative learning experiences with a set of geometric building blocks. After being admitted (and subsequently dropping out of) the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1886, Lloyd moved to the growing city of Chicago to find work as an architect. There his apprenticeship with the firms of Silsbee and Adler & Sullivan allowed him to develop his unique style at a time when much American architecture imitated Victorian or other imported European styles.
In a career that spanned seventy-two years, Lloyd went on to pioneer the Prarie School, Organic, and Usonian modernist styles in architecture, challenging many of the American establishment’s conventions of appearance, form, and function. He left behind many of the most iconic buildings in the country, including Fallingwater (pictured below).
Fortunately for those of us who enjoy good buildings, he didn’t let his lack of a degree stop him.