Frank Lloyd Wright and the Prairie School (1999)

Frank Lloyd Wright and the Prairie School (1999)

This country chapel may be the
earliest design of the American architect Frank
Lloyd Wright. It stands in a meadow not far
from where he was born in Central Wisconsin in 1867. Wright’s uncles farmed the
rolling fields surrounding the family’s land. The architect would later write
that his early life in rural Midwest put nature at
the center of his vision. I think one of his missions
was to create an American architecture, one that was not
dependent upon other places and other times for
its aesthetics. The cardboard house needed
an antidote. When, in the cause of
architecture, in 1893, I first began to build houses. The only way to simplify the
awful building in vogue at the time was to conceive a finer
entity, a better building, and get it built. The buildings standing then were
all tall, and all tight. Chimneys were lean and taller
still, sooty fingers threatening the sky. And beside them, sticking up by
way of dormers through the cruelly sharp, saw-tooth roofs,
were the attics for the help to swelter in. Invariably, the damp, sticky
clay of the prairie was dug out for a basement, under
the whole house. And the rubble stone walls of
this dank basement always stuck up above the ground, a
foot or more, and blinked with half windows. The lean upper house walls of
the usual two floors above this stone basement were wood,
clapboarded and painted, or else shingled and stained,
preferably shingled and mixed, up and down, all together,
with moldings crosswise. These overdressed wood house
walls had cut in them, or cut out of them, to be precise, big
holes for the big cat and little holes for the little cat
to get in or out, or for ulterior purposes of
light and air. The house walls would be
corniced, or bracketed up at the top into the tall,
purposely, profusely, complicated roof. The whole roof was scalloped
and ridged and tipped and swanked and gabled to madness. The whole exterior was
bedeviled, that is to say mixed to puzzle pieces with
corner boards, panel boards, window frames, corner blocks,
plinth blocks, rosettes, faintails, and jigger
work in general. This was the only way they
seem to have then of putting on style. Unless the householder of the
period where poor indeed, usually an ingenious corner
tower on his house eventuated into a candle snuffer dome, a
spire, an inverted rutabaga, a radish, or onion, or what is
your favorite vegetable. Always elaborate bay windows
and fancy porches played ring-around-a-rosie on this
imaginative, corner feature. And all this, the building of
the period could do equally well in brick or stone. It was an impartial society. All materials look pretty
much alike in that day. Simplicity was as far from all
this scrap pile as the pandemonium of the barn yard
is far from music. But it was easy for
the architect. All they had to do was call,
boy, take down number 37, and put a bay window on
it for the lady. So, the first thing to do was
to get rid of the attic, and next get rid of the unwholesome
basement entirely. Yes, absolutely. In any house built on the
prairie, instead of lean, brick chimneys, I could see
necessity for one only. A broad, generous one kept low,
down, on gently sloping roofs, or perhaps flat roofs. The big fireplace, below,
inside, became now a place for a real fire. It refreshed me to see the
fire burning deep in the masonry of the house itself. Taking a human being for my
scale, I brought the whole house down in height to
fit a normal man. Believing in no other scale, I
broadened the mass out all I possibly could, as I brought
it down into spaciousness. I am 5 foot, 8 and
1/2 inches tall. It has been said that were I 3
inches taller, all my houses would have been quite different
in proportion. Perhaps. House walls were now to be
started at the ground, on a cement or stone water table
that looked like a low platform under the building. But the house walls were stopped
at the second story window sill level to let the
rooms above come through, in a continuous window series. Here was true enclosure of
interior space, a new sense of building, it seems. At this time, a house to me
was obvious, primarily, as interior space under
fine shelter. I liked the sense of shelter and
the look of the building. I achieved it, I believe. Frank Lloyd Wright came to
Chicago area in 1887 and worked for Joseph Lyman Silsbee,
who was the foremost architectural practitioner of
the Shingle Style in Chicago. In a sense, Silsbee brought the
style to Chicago from the East coast, and it
was very popular. It was a natural kind of
architecture and quite picturesque. And it was, therefore, natural
for Wright to use that style in his own first home. In 1889, at the age of 22,
Wright met Catherine Tobin. The two were soon married. And Wright built a home for his
new family at the corner of Forest and Chicago
Avenues in Oak Park, a suburb of Chicago. At the time, this was the edge
of Oak Park’s westward development. And the house faced the woods. The stained cedar shingle and
rough brick base of the home were in harmony with the
natural surroundings. Inside, Wright experimented
with an open floor plan to create an organic
flow of space. Organic architecture was a
phrase often used by Chicago’s most prominent practitioner,
Louis Sullivan. The ideal of an organic
architecture forms the origin and source, the strength,
and fundamentally, the significance of everything ever
worthy of the name of architecture. Wright never adequately,
anywhere, defined organic architecture. And we’ve all tried to put words
in this mouth over the years to do this, but I would
say that what it means is working as closely as possible
with nature in architectural design, that your buildings
should work with nature. Well, Frank Lloyd Wright, when
he came to Chicago, how it was working for Silsbee, and heard
about a job opening at Louis Sullivan’s office. And he went over there. According to Wright, he showed
him his drawings. And Sullivan was at a point in
the design of the auditorium theater that he needed someone
to take his sketches and develop them into something
that could be used by the modelers and making the molds. And he liked what Wright did. I think he probably at that time
saw maybe the genius that Frank Lloyd Wright
would become. And Frank Lloyd Wright said that
he became the pencil in the master’s hand. Principles are not invented. They are not evolved by
one man or one age. But Mr. Sullivan’s perception
and practice of them amounted to a revelation, at a time when
they were commercially inexpedient, and all but lost to
sight in current practice. One of the things Wright learned
from Sullivan was a real sensitivity toward nature,
towards using, oh say, platforms as models for
ornament, for even for floor plans in his houses. And maybe in a larger sense,
understanding that nature created in ways analogous to
the humans’ process of creativity. What we must know in organic
architecture is not found in books. It is necessary to have recourse
to nature with a capital N in order to
get an education. Necessary to learn from trees,
flowers, shells, objects which contain truths of form
following function. Well, Frank Lloyd Wright,
of course, loved nature. He writes about in his
autobiography. And the task for every designer
using nature is to somehow translate it into
something that is usable. Because nature is seemingly
chaotic. And so geometry is the
way to do that. Wright looked to nature as his
inspiration, but unlike Sullivan, he tended toward a
more abstract, geometric treatment of the organic forms,
as can be seen in the dining room of his home. Sullivan’s ornament, there
was more freedom in it. He used curvilinear elements
drawn by hand and so forth. Wright, on the other hand, most
of his work was done with a T-square and a triangle. Sullivan’s 1891 residence for
James Charnley shows the hand of his chief draftsman working
alongside his own. There are people who argue
that in a first modern building in architecture was the
Charnley house, which of course was Louis Sullivan’s
house. Wright drew the drawings,
but that’s Louis Sullivan’s design. Some of the stylistic features
of Wright’s buildings can be found in some of Sullivan’s
buildings and also in some of Henry Hobson Richardson’s
buildings. If you look at Richardson’s
railroad stations, for example, you will see roofs and
overhangs that remind one of Wright’s prairie houses. Well, I think that Frank Lloyd
Wright was looking at Richardson, architecturally,
much more than Sullivan. And Richardson was not
a great theorist. He didn’t really write very
much about what he was trying to create. Frank Lloyd Wright’s buildings
are based on principle, on a theory. And Sullivan was one of the
great American theorists in architecture. Wright often referred to the
Louis Sullivan as his labormeister, our
beloved teacher. But the two had a falling
out in 1893. Now on his own, the 26-year-old
received several small commissions for homes. This Queen Anne reveals the
architect’s tendency to simplify exterior detailing. Windows of leaded glass are
arranged in a continuous, horizontal band. WEBVTT Here, the massive base of the
home is made of large, rough stones from the nearby river. In his remodeling of this tudor,
the over hanging porch roof protects the coach
entrance and adds a horizontal emphasis. Hip roofs and broad eaves
give a sense of shelter to this home. The architect preferred simple,
natural materials like brick, stucco, or
stained wood. Though he had been adapting
traditional architecture, Wright soon began formulating
an idea for an original American-style house based on
Sullivan’s organic principles. America, more than any other
nation, presents a new, architectural proposition. Her ideal is democracy. This means that she places
a life premium upon individuality, the highest
possible development of the individual, consistent with
a harmonious whole. In 1895, the Winslow house
in River Forest marked a significant shift away
from historic styles. The Winslow house was the first,
true building of the Prairie School that Frank
Lloyd Wright did. On the other hand, I don’t think
it was the first Prairie School building. I believe that the first Prairie
School building was actually done by a man who has
been little acknowledged in the history of Chicago’s
architecture. And that’s Dwight Perkins. Dwight Perkins designed
the Washington Park Refectory building. And if one looks at the
Refectory today, it has all the elements of the
Prairie School. And it was finished
1991, two years before the Winslow House. It has the Roman brick. It has the rhythmic arches. It has the overhanging roofs. I have no doubt that
Wright saw it. He and Perkins were friends. And I believe that the Refectory
as a commercial, public building and the Winslow
house as a private home where the two primary,
original buildings of the Prairie School of
architecture. Dwight Perkins’ building of 1893
for the Steinway Piano Company became a gathering place
for advocates of a new, architectural movement. Among them was Frank
Lloyd Wright. Perkins built Steinway Hall at
Van Buren Street just off Michigan Avenue in Chicago. And in order to partly fill it
up, he took space on the top floor and invited all his
friends to join him. And what they did was share
a drafting room. And this was very important in
the genesis of the Prairie School because they were
trading ideas. Frank Lloyd Wright seems to
have had one of the really dynamic personalities coming
out of this whole era. I think that’s why people
gravitated towards him. They knew that he was going
to get good projects. And that he was going to be able
to defend his aesthetic ideas to the clients. He was going to be able to talk
them into doing things that they probably would’ve
never dreamed of doing on their own. To accommodate his growing
practice, the architect built a studio adjacent to his home. Things really took a very
interesting turn in 1898 when he added the studio because
this was an experiment. It was not unlike his roots in
Wisconsin, where a farmer has a barn next to his house. And he goes out and works. But he comes at lunch
and plays with the kids and so forth. And Wright wanted to combine
his family life and his professional life. And he did it in that way. Several of the architects who
had worked with the Wright at Steinway Hall now followed him
to the Oak Park studio. In Wright’s own architectural
office, there’s Walter Burley Griffin at work. Griffin was a landscape
designer, and generally is credited with much of the
early Prairie landscape designs coming out of
Wright’s office. William Drummond was oftentimes
sent out to the field to supervise the
early construction. A freelance designer in
his office was the young Marion Mahony. And she is the drafts person
who really creates the drawings that allows Frank Lloyd
Wright to go the client and say here’s what we
really like to do. It’s a marvelous coming together
and unique time in history when several people work
together to come up with a composite whole. As a result, Frank Lloyd Wright
ends up with much of the specific, singular credit. The fact is, that, these
houses are contributory designs that many people worked
on, and can only really be likened to a Renaissance
workshop. These young people have found
their way to me through natural sympathy with the work
and have become loyal assistants. For me, one real proof of the
virtue inherent in this work will lie in the fact that some
of the young men and women who have given themselves up to me
so faithfully these past few years will some day contribute
rounded, individualities of their own, and forms
of their own devising to the new school. In a series of articles for
the Ladies Home Journal in 1901, Wright set forth to the
public his ideal for a home in a prairie town. Built in 1901, the Bradley house
in Kankakee, Illinois, strongly resembles a small house
with lots of room in it, shown in the magazine series. Wright and his associates had
created a new vocabulary for residential designs. This house, built in 1902, for
industrialist Ward Willits, is often cited as Wright’s first
mature prairie home. The Willits house is probably
the first time Frank Lloyd Wright had a client who had a
reasonable site, this was several acres, who had the
money and the interest to allow him to put something
together that had never been assembled before. Not only his stucco house, which
reached out into the landscapes, something he
preached before, but also allowed him to do the
complete interior. In terms of the style of the
building, the low-pitched roofs, the big overhangs-
it’s not the first. But in terms of Frank Lloyd
Wright putting all of these factors together and coming up
with one piece of work, I would say the Willits house is
certainly the first of what we would call the masterpieces. The surfaces of the building,
the ornament, the abstraction of the glass, the bands of
windows, the way that the spaces flow, all of those
things are there. All of them are there. Wood is universally
beautiful to man. It is the most humanely intimate
of all materials. Man loves his association
with it. Likes to feel it under his hand,
sympathetic to his touch and to his eye. The Japanese understood
it best. In Japanese architecture, can
be seen what a sensitive material, let alone for its
own sake, can do for human sensibilities, as beauty
for the human spirit. Music may be for the architect,
ever and always, a sympathetic friend who’s
councils, precepts, and patterns even, are available to
him, and from which he need not fear to draw. Wright’s prairie homes had great
appeal to an emerging class of businessmen and
engineers, who had themselves challenged tradition. He was addressing himself to an
identifiable social class with very identifiable needs who
wanted a certain kind of architecture, and a certain
kind of feel in their building, and didn’t particularly care about history. Many of his clients in the early
days were engineers, or had developed their
own businesses. They saw the logic in what Frank
Lloyd Wright was trying to do, as opposed to what they
might think of as being overly decorative, the Queen
Anne, for example. And so, it was a sort of
practicality, I think, that appealed to them. They were not the elite. They were not the Cyrus
McCormick’s, but they were not middle class either. These were newly emerged,
wealthy class. These businessmen were seizing
Wright’s architecture, were attracted to Wright’s
architecture, as a way of establishing their own artistic
connoisseurship. They’re grabbing on to the
avant-garde here as a way of differentiating themselves from
the real elite, which gravitated toward much
more conservative design, historic design. So there’s a social impetus
behind attraction to the prairie style. The Dana house is a very complex
issue in terms of the development of Frank Lloyd
Wright’s career. He had been making kind of
summary statements about what he wanted in architecture up
to the year 1902, 1903 when the Dana house was under
construction. This house gave him a chance
to do everything that he’d ever dreamed of doing
as an architect. It became much larger, much
more elaborate, much more costly, and becomes a kind
of design laboratory. Mrs. Dana probably should have
gone to a Springfield architect, had she wanted
something more conventional. And she had very good friends
that had an older father that were architects. She chose not to use them. She chose a young, controversial
architect from Oak Park to design her house
that was totally unique and very different. And I think she relished that
role of being at the forefront of design in Springfield. There were many things that
linked these two people. They were both willing
to go against the convention of society. In the matter of decoration,
the tendency has been to indulge it less and less. In many cases, merely
providing certain architectural preparation for
natural foliage, or flowers, as it is managed in the entrance
to the Dana house at Springfield. This use of natural foliage and
flowers for decoration is carried to quite an extent
in all the designs. And although the buildings
are complete without this efflorescence, they
may be said to blossom with the season. As with many Wright houses, in
particularly conservative Midwestern communities, people
didn’t quite know what to make of it. It was called all
kinds of things. It was referred to as
a Japanese temple. It was called a Spanish
pavilion. People knew that its ornament
had some routine in the oriental, but they didn’t know
quite what to make of it. When a thing is good from the
standpoint of fine art, you may be sure that vital laws and
organic requirements were not disregarded in its makeup. They were either intuitively
felt, or carefully taken into account. And whether it is a building, or
a painting, or a rug, it’s expression can only be beautiful
when the rudiments of common honesty have been
observed in its construction. I think one of the most
important things that Frank Lloyd Wright learned from
Louis Sullivan was the integrity of the building, and
how the building lives or dies by the fact that it
fits together. Frank Lloyd Wright picked
up with that same idea. Repeated it, perhaps maybe even
demanding more of the client in terms of coordinating
exterior and interior design, doing all the
details, wanting wherever his client could afford it, as Mrs.
Dana could, on a really grand scale, the ability to
design all kinds of decorative items that would fit into those
spaces, from the choice of drapery materials and colors,
to the carpets, to the built-ins and the freestanding
furniture, to the light fixtures, the art glass features
in windows and doors, just a marvelous symphony
of form. My father taught me to
regard a symphony as an edifice of sound. And ever since, as I listen to
Bach and Beethoven and Mozart, I have watched the builder
build, and learned many valuable things from music,
another phase of understanding nature. Go to nature, though
builder of houses. Consider her ways, and do not
being petty and foolish. Let your home appear to grow
easily from its site, and shape it to sympathize with the
surroundings, if nature is manifest there. And if not, try and be as
quiet, substantial, and organic as she would have been
if she had the chance. One of the interesting things
about Frank Lloyd Wright is that he didn’t just pursue
one direction. He was constantly exploring
many, many different ideas. And so, some of these prairie
houses look very different from each other because
he was exploring these different ideas. But there were identifiable
features common to them all. A horizontal orientation, deeply
over hanging roofs, deep eaves, no excavation,
no cellar I should say. So the house sort of caresses
and sits gently on the land, rather than gouging it out. Spacious porches. Windows in continuous
series, more windows than other houses. Also very geometric, leaded
glass, stained glass ornamentation. And on the interior, an open
floor plan, or at least more open than had been the case for
a few generations, as one room flowed into the next. So the house was avant-garde in
the sense that it seemed to reflect the Machine Age. But at the same time, it opened
up and cherished nature more than most other
places did. Frank Lloyd Wright wanted to get
rid of the box, the house as a box and rooms as boxes, and
to let the space flow in and out of the house, out on
to the verandas, and the terraces, and the landscape, and
the gardens, and also from room to room. He was opening up the walls,
both rooms to each other and the inside to the outside, but
he didn’t want to lose the sense of this great, hovering
roof that was protecting you. They have a very strong, sort
of protective feeling about them, almost like a cave. Once you’re in this cave, you’re
sheltered from the physical world, the worldly
elements, but also perhaps a kind of hostile social world out
there in the turn of the 20th century when cities were
changing so rapidly. And what was the objective
of the prairie house? Nurture the family. In a sense, create a modern
farmhouse where the family could sit around the kitchen
stove, now the living room hearth, in a plan that opened up
so the people on the first floor could see and sense
each other everywhere. And in that sense, it was a
very old fashioned house. Frank Lloyd Wright saw the
fireplace as the spiritual center of the home. And this again came somewhat
from his roots on the farm where there wasn’t necessarily
electricity or gas, and the fireplace was the cooking
center and the source of heat and light. Stability represented by a warm
hearth was always in his mind, and he always
provided that for every one of his clients. We, of the middle west, are
living on the prairie. The prairie has a beauty of
its own, and we should recognize and accentuate
this natural beauty, its quiet level. Hence, gently sloping roofs,
low proportions, quiet skylines, and sheltering
overhangs, low terraces, and out-reaching walls. I’ve been interested for years
in how Wright got people into his buildings, you come in under
a low roof into a little ante-way, and then maybe you
turn a corner, and then suddenly you burst out
into a big space. He could get a person into his
building better than anybody else, and his colleagues
emulated him on that. This home designed by William
Drummond leads the visitor up a few steps, turning behind
a screening wall to enter the door. Turn again up several steps, and
the open fireplace reveals a hint of the living room. Finally, turn again into the
open space where a broad band of art glass windows frames
the view outside. Basically what the term Prairie
School refers to, is a group of architects who had been
Wright’s apprentices for a while, supplemented by other
architects, some of whom had worked for Louis Sullivan,
supplemented by a third group of architects who would work for
neither, and maybe didn’t even live in Chicago, but were
much impressed by the work and began to design in
that manner. Walter Burley Griffin had his
training at the University of Illinois, so he was already an
architect when he came to work for Frank Lloyd Wright. And then went on to do some
wonderfully, imaginative buildings, finally ending up
winning the competition for the design of Canberra, the
capital city of Australia. Anyone who’s done any work in
this field can recognize Griffin’s work versus
Wright’s work. It’s a little heavier, it’s
more muscular if you will. I don’t want to suggest that
it isn’t as elegant. William Drummond, on the other
hand, was sort of the other end of the spectrum
from Griffin. His work was more delicate. I think that Marion Mahony was
even more tied to nature than Frank Lloyd Wright was. And you can see it in her
renderings in Wright’s studio, how the most delineated and
detailed parts of her rendering where the trees
and flowers and plants. And the buildings were almost
these restful interludes of blank space. So to her, architecture should
be subservient to nature, not compete with it. She was very rare. She was the first woman licensed
as an architect in the United States. Only the second woman to
graduate with an architectural degree from MIT. And probably one of only a
handful of women practicing in the United States
in the late 19th century and early century. Many architects outside of
Wright’s Oak Park studio were sympathetic to the prairie ideal
as they developed their own unique variations. George Maher is definitely part
of the Prairie School, but he kept to his own
path, you might say. I believe Maher and Wright
actually worked for Silsbee at the same time. You can identify a George
Maher house. It’s clearly of the Prairie
School, but it’s very different from what
Wright did. Many of his houses had very
similar details, with the arched roof over the entry. He used, as the other members
of the Prairie School did, leaded glass a great deal. He was a very fine architect. And then there are other
individuals, eventually in the early 20th century, the firms
of Purcell and Elmslie, and the Spencer and Powers, and
Guenzel and Drummond. Many of these individuals were
associated with either Sullivan or Wright in some
capacity, not that they necessarily worked for them,
but they were very knowledgeable about
their designs. William Gray Purcell and George
Grant Elmslie both made enormous contributions. And there is a valid argument
that the Purcell and Elmslie office was the real successor
to Louis Sullivan. The estimates seem to be about
30 architects, scattered across the Midwest, who had no
formal association, but who were identified as working
in the same manner. And that matter was really
invented by Wright. Others may have made variations,
and some very nice variations in some case,
but basically the ideas came from Wright. There are some people who argue
that Frank Lloyd Wright did it all and the rest
were imitators. I don’t believe that all. I believe that Frank Lloyd
Wright was essentially first among a large number
of equals. A school of architecture implies
a lot of buildings by a lot of people who have
a shared philosophy. And that’s what happened. WEBVTT Up to about 1908 or ’09 or so,
Frank Lloyd Wright felt that he was, in fact, passing the
torch to a new generation, although it wasn’t a
generation’s age difference. But there came a moment in his
life, for other reasons, that he began to think that those
architects to whom he had passed the torch, actually
had stolen the torch. So it depends what moment in
time you look at Wright, as to what his opinion about
all this was. Even Louis Sullivan showed the
influence of the style in his later department stores and
small town banks, though the ornament was unmistakably
his own. In the Ladies Home Journal
series, Wright had earlier proposed construction of a
fireproof house for $5,000, which would use reinforced
concrete for walls, floors, and roof. The technique would now be used
in the construction of Unity Temple in Oak Park. He had a problem with
Unity Temple. Like most churches, particularly
Unitarian churches, they didn’t have an
awful lot of money, and they wanted to do quite
a large building. And Frank Lloyd Wright realized,
almost immediately, that the only way they could
really build something like this was to use a very
inexpensive material. He started off with the building
committee, and convinced several of the key
members that what he was doing was really in the best
expression of being conservative. He really appealed to their
conservative spirit, even though it look entirely
different than anything they had seen. They could see the logic of the
plan and the arrangement, and the fact that he was using
this new building material was economical. It was hard to argue with. Plus Frank Lloyd Wright was
a very persuasive man. The fundamental principle of all
architecture is that the form must fit the function. A modern church building
has a two-fold purpose. It is erected for the worship
of God and for the service of man. He wanted you to enter the
auditorium through a lower level, that you basically looked
up through a little slot, and could see a little bit
of the rooms, intriguing. And then you would walk down
the sides, not really being able to see this great room,
and actually enter the auditorium then from the
back, coming upstairs. But when you finally come up
into that great room, you’re coming into this marvelous
light. I think it is true that the
Robie House is one of the finest expressions
of the whole idea of the prairie house. There’s no superfluous
ornamentation. It’s a very rich building,
but the integration is almost perfect. The main space in the second
floor with the living room and the dining room, virtually one
room separated only by this large fireplace, almost perfect
expression of that one room idea that Frank
Lloyd Wright had. Self-denial is imposed upon the
architect to a far greater extent than upon any other
member of the fine art family. The temptation to sweeten work,
to make each detail in itself lovable and expressive,
is always great. But that the whole may be truly
eloquent of its ultimate function, restraint
is imperative. Wright’s fame had now spread
to Europe, where the German publisher Ernst Wasmuth
assembled a portfolio of drawings from the
Oak Park studio. The Wasmuth portfolio became a
manual of inspiration for the modernist movement. The Prairie School was the
beginning of modern architecture in the world. I don’t know any architect of
merit today in the world that does not acknowledge, at
the very least a great appreciation of Frank
Lloyd Wright. Wasmuth had invited Wright to
Berlin to supervise production of his portfolio. In 1909, Wright abruptly
departed Oak Park, his family, and his practice, and traveled
through Europe for two years with Mamah Cheney, the wife
of a former client. This absorbing, consuming phase
of my experience as an architect ended about 1909. I had almost reached
my 40th year. Weary, I was losing grip on my
work, and even interest in it. The prairie architects continued
designing in their manner for several
years to come. But ultimately, the appeal of
more picturesque, traditional houses returned to dominate
the public taste. When he returned from Europe,
the scandal Wright had created caused him to seek the sanctuary
of his childhood home in Wisconsin. The architect built on a
hillside there, and dubbed the estate Taliesin, a Welsh word
meaning, shining brow. It’s difficult to say, I think,
when the prairie period ended for Wright. Taliesin, I think, is the last
great prairie house. After that, the work
is clearly in different kinds of styles. More dramatic elsewhere, perhaps
more strange, more thrilling, more grand, too, but
nothing picks you up in its arms, and so gently, almost
lovingly cradles you, as do these Wisconsin hills. In America, each man has a
peculiar, inalienable right to live in his own house,
in his own way. He is a pioneer, in every
right sense of the word. His home environment may face
forward, may portray his character, tastes, and
ideas, if he has any. An American is duty bound to
establish traditions, in harmony with his ideals, his
still unspoiled sights, his industrial opportunities. A truly noble architecture is
a definite possibility, so

3 thoughts on “Frank Lloyd Wright and the Prairie School (1999)

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