First Bank Branch - Dardenne Prairie, MO

What are Frank Lloyd Wright’s enduring influences on architecture and design? Significant among the many is what he referred to as the organic plan. In its most simple form, this is a conscious effort to avoid the preconceptions that static, tested forms rightly fit any potential site. It is the belief that design inspiration is best found in the particulars of a building’s setting rather than in the pages of history books.

In fact, it was the norm for pre-modern architects to have a conception of a formal architectural solution prior to any knowledge or direct experience of the site. With Wright, this changed. His best buildings and plans seem to grow out of their contexts rather than appear as though dropped out of the sky onto them.

Bank plans, because of both their static programs and historic precedents, tend to be formal and “non-organic.” For tight, urban and flat suburban sites the result is not too objectionable – it’s typically a decorated box. More interesting is the architectural design that emerges from whatever unique qualities a site and program offer.

The Dardenne First Bank plan attempts to take advantage of its location on the open plain. It has a generally informal array of forms arrayed around a centerpiece, similar to Wright’s “prairie style” home planning. The residential centerpiece is the hearth; here, it is the teller line, the heart of daily commercial bank activity.