Frank Lloyd Wright
Home and Studio
More than one hundred years ago, Frank Lloyd Wright sparked an architectural revolution with the opening of his Studio in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, Illinois. The Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio served as the architect’s private residence and workplace from 1889-1909. While experimenting with concepts that contained the seeds of his building philosophy, Wright used his home as an architectural laboratory. In the studio, Wright and his associates developed the new American architecture: Prairie Style, and designed 125 structures, including the famous Robie House, Larkin Building and Unity Temple.
Wright’s inspiration of an indigenous architecture has its roots in the flat, expansive prairie landscape of the American Midwest. Reacting against the ‘historical revivalism’ prevalent in the American architecture of the time, Wright and his draftsmen sought to create a new aesthetic that combined functionality and beauty, reflecting the natural surroundings. Conceiving every detail of the internal and external fixtures; carpets, windows, doors, table and chairs, light fittings and decorative elements; he was the first to design and supply custom-made, purpose-built furniture and fittings that functioned as integrated parts of the whole design.
Seeking to break out of the box-like structure of the Victorian House, Wright blurred the line between interior and exterior spaces by using art glass windows as “light screens”. The complex geometric patterns are often abstract representations of nature. Using light as ‘the beautifier of the building’ and glass as an incarnation of light, these window designs are an integral part of the building. As a former stained glass designer, I have immense appreciation for the work required in these intricate pieces.
A virtual tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio only serves to whet the appetite for a personal visit. The walking tours of the neighborhood surrounding the studio brings more of his designs to discovery, with several highlighted on the Preservation Trust site.
Histories of Wright’s associates and their careers, archival drawings and historical collections are available through the library and research center. Several depositories of rare drawings, manuscripts and letters are available with links to sources framing Wright’s varied and far reaching career. Historic collections include architectural fragments, personal affects, and furniture designed exclusively for the house and studio.
The unique Architect Studio 3D tool continues the design vision of Frank Lloyd Wright with his two philosophies:
“When building a house, you must consider two things, the needs of people, and the particulars of place.”
You can design a house, walk through it in 3D and share it on the web. Their “learning by doing” opportunity brings skills together from math, social studies, language arts and fine art. Addressing learning styles and demands of curriculum, this is a great teaching tool, both challenging and satisfying. Why not create your own vision with the easy to incorporate virtual feature of architectural design in the ‘prairie style’.
I look forward to a physical visit to this unique center of design in Oak Park, Illinois sometime in the next few months, a virtual tour only reveals the possibilities of what is available. My thanks to Len Grossman for suggesting this historical area, unique to Chicago, for my Museum Monday. If you want to learn more about the personal history of Frank Lloyd Wright, check out his Wiki page. His colorful personal life would make headlines, and the American Institute of Architects recognized him “as the greatest American architect of all time.”