Renowned American architect Frank Lloyd Wright would have turned 149 on Wednesday. The monumental figure designed 1,114 architectural works — 532 of which were completed— before his death in 1959.
In honor of his birthday, the above photos represent 15 of his best-known ones, from the Guggenheim museum in New York City, which he wanted to feel like “a curving wave that never breaks” (LIFE, Nov. 2, 1959), to the office building the Wisconsin native designed for a wax-polish company in a “drab section” of Racine, which was meant to be “as inspiring a place to work in as any cathedral ever was to worship in” (May 8, 1939). As LIFE summed up his portfolio in his 1959 obituary:
His low-slung houses, with their massive chimneys and slablike walls “married to the ground,” created a sensation in an era when ornate mansions were the vogue. His office buildings, with their golf-tee columns, their spiky or rounded towers, were striking phenomena amid the rectangular steel structures that came to dominate U.S. cities.
In addition to being known for sprawling oases like Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Ariz., he was also notorious for going over-budget (perhaps not surprisingly, given his taste in luxuries like velvet knickers). For instance, at one point he considered applying a gold leaf coating to the concrete surfaces of Fallingwater, the personal home of Kaufmann’s Department Store owners in Bear Run, Pa. (and the subject of the Jan. 17, 1938 cover of TIME). Thus, LIFE concluded in its Aug. 12, 1946 issue that he had “one dominant trait of character; an absolute inability to endure confinement of any sort.”