When Dodds & Shute visited Chiacgo it was essential that we made the pilgrimage to visit the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s first home and studio in Oak Park, Illinois. Wright was one of the most prolific, unorthodox and controversial masters of 20th-century architecture, creating twelve of the Architectural Record’s hundred most important buildings of the century and in Fallingwater designed one of the most iconic homes in the world.
Oak Park was the architect’s residence and studio where he lived and worked for two decades. When he built this residence in 1889 he was remarkably only 22 years old and when he build an extension to incorporate his studio it resulted in the most prolific years of his career designing over 150 (largely residential) buildings.
Wright came onto the scene at a time when the United States was struggling to define its architectural identity. Determined to create an indigenous American architecture he set the standards for what became known as the Prairie Style. Strongly influenced by the principles of the Arts and Crafts movement and a deep found respect for the natural world, this new democratic architecture was intended to be free from the shackles of Old Europe and suited to a modern American way of living.
The intention of his philosophy was to eliminate the essential nature of the box. Interior walls were to be minimised to emphasise openness and community and the relationship of inhabitants to the outside to become more intimate. Landscape and building become more harmonious rather than separate independent things. His influence on the surrounding neighbourhood is considerable, with the greatest number of Wright designed residences in the world including two of his most iconic designs the Nathan G. Moore House and the Arthur Heurtley House.
Believing that architecture could be genuinely transformative, Wright devoted his life to creating a total aesthetic that would enhance society’s well being. “Above all integrity, buildings like people must first be sincere, must be true.”. To Wright, architecture was not just about buildings but about nourishing the lives of those within them and his visionary work cemented his place as the greatest American architect of all time by the American Institute of Architects.
Below are some examples of his Prairie style designs in the Oak Park neighbourhood.