Sunday, 30 September 2012

Chicago architecture II

Frank Lloyd Wright

No visit to Chicago is complete without seeing some Frank Lloyd Wright. America's greatest architect started his career in nearby Oak Park, and his buildings are scattered throughout the city. The most famous of these is probably Robie House, located near the University of Chicago campus in Hyde Park.

But I had already visited Robie House on a previous visit to Chicago, so this time we went to his house and studio in Oak Park. Oak Park is conveniently located on the 'L'- we discovered that the Chicago transit system is a really easy way to visit the city - no more getting stuck in traffic and paying astronomical parking fees for us!

Walking out to the house, we made a game of 'spot the Frank Lloyd Wright'. Oak Park was the site of his first architectural studio, and has the largest collection of his buildings in the world, with 25 structures built between 1889 and 1913. There are other buildings that, although probably not designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, have been inspired by his 'Prairie Style'. Here were some of our favourites:

Got to be Frank Lloyd Wright

Possibly Frank Lloyd Wright

Prairie Style on steroids

Prairie Style on hallucinogens

The Frank Lloyd Wright house and studio tour was a revelation - as we went through the house and studio we saw his style transform and develop before our eyes. The house is basically a Victorian style with some Frank Lloyd Wright additions. The studio, which was added on later, presents his full-blown style.

One of my favourite features in the house was the cosy hearth nook. This small space, off the front parlor, was opened up by punching through windows above the seats, and by placing a mirror above the hearth. The mirror was arranged in such a way that you could not see people in the room reflected in it, so it looked like another window.

Hearth nook used for private meetings

But my favourite room of all was the children's room, with its Egypt-inspired mural

and barrel vaulted ceiling with intricately hand-carved ceiling decoration.

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Lucky Wright children! Well, apart from the later family scandals. Although undoubtedly a genius, Frank Lloyd Wright was obviously no saint.