Frank Lloyd Wright Buildings Are Becoming UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Published on July 12, 2019

Rarely does an architect become so well-known that their works become comparable to highly sought after pieces of artwork. Frank Lloyd Wright, however has achieved such a level of aura in the last half a century with famous works such as the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Falling Water house, or the Frederick C. Robie house in Chicago. Lovers of both mid-century modern architecture and modern art gather to bid on the famed buildings in more recent years. Now some of the most famous buildings are earning a whole new accolade in being named UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

What Makes An UNESCO World Heritage Site?

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (or more widely known as UNESCO) dedicates sites around the world that it believes have earned the right to be protected because they offer some type of cultural, historical, or educational significance. Places like the Taj Mahal of India or the Vallée de Mai in Seychelles, a major forest. Countries can nominate locations or landmarks to be put into a tentative list to be considered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Once the landmarks are nominated, the organization considers whether or not they should be awarded with the recognition as an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites receive protections thanks to treaties that designate them as specific monuments from the United Nations. Only locations and monuments that hold a certain level of significance in history and are considered paramount to the preservation of the past so that future civilizations can appreciate them are designated World Heritage sites. That being said, there are over 850 designated World Heritage sites around the world—so good luck visiting all of them in your lifetime.

8 of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Works Become UNESCO World Heritage Sites

During the 43rd annual World Heritage Committee session this month, 8 works by Frank Lloyd Wright were designated as World Heritage Sites to honor Wrights contributions to the world of art and architecture. Wright is long thought to have pioneered the Prairie School movement of architecture. The movement is characterized by things like modular lines, a linear horizontal focus that was reflected in the homes exterior, and interior open spaces that flowed with the land around it rather than standing out. At its core, the Prairie School movement was a way of defining American architecture while the country was still trying to create its own identity. Lloyd felt that what made America stand out from other places was its landscapes, so he wanted that to be reflected in what would be defined as an “American” home.

Today, eight of Wright’s most famous works are being designated as World Heritage sites by UNESCO. The sites include both Taliesin properties in Arizona and Wisconsin, The Hollychock House in Los Angeles, The Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Herbert and Katherine Jacobs house in Wisconsin, Fallingwater in Pennsylvania, Unity Temple in Illinois, and the Frederick C. Robie house in Chicago. All eight of the landmarks are part of a bigger monument dedicated to Wright’s contributions in defining American architecture. Dedicating them as an UNESCO World Heritage Site gives them access to greater preservation strategies—which is both a luxury and a greater responsibility.


Julia Sachs is a former Managing Editor at Grit Daily. She covers technology, social media and disinformation. She is based in Utah and before the pandemic she liked to travel.

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