Prairie School of Architecture ....
[Reserved Slot: This slot is reserved; for a long overdue post]
Well, here it comes: The PRAIRIE school of ARCHITECTURE!
We studied in school about grasslands; like prairies in America; like pampas in Argentina, llanos in Venezuela, savannas in Africa and steppes in Central Asia.
That Illinois is a “Prairie State”; is well known ...
But what is not so well-known is that ... in Chicago evolved the “Prairie School” of architecture; which revolutionized American homes. It started around 1890’s under Frank Lloyd Wright and a group of architects working with him in his Oak Park Studio.
Wright said that “Architecture is the scientific art of making structures express ideas”. [Left: Wright's Oak Park Studio]
Wright believed very strongly that buildings have an enormous impact on it’s inhabitants. He was against the Victorian Style; which he argued was highly compartmentalized. "The archetypal vision of the Victorian home, with mother entertaining the ladies over tea in the parlor, the father smoking cigars in the study, and the children banished to the nursery upstairs"; was stifling the American family. Frank Lloyd favored “open plan” against the Victorian “boxed-in” style. To avoid subdivision of space, he did away with the conventional divisions between spaces on the lower floors. The open-space makes family members to come in contact much more and does not allow them to hide in rigidly enclosed rooms.
[Left: Arthur Heurtley House, in Oak park; designed by Frank Wright in 1902]
The prairie homes are also designed to protect the family members from the outside world. This is achieved by small front entrance and wide overhangs of the roof.
As the name suggests prairie houses are designed to blend with the surrounding flat Prairie landscape. Wright said: “The prairie has a beauty of its own, and we should recognize and accentuate this natural beauty.” The prairie style uses natural colors and materials. The windows are high which makes for indirect lighting.
- long low lines, imitating the horizontal lines of Prairies.
- Overhanging eaves, expressing of affinity with the ground
- Rows of high windows usually featuring art glass
- Spacious and open floor plan
- On the ground floor, different areas are separated by furniture rather than walls
- Simple looks devoid of ornamentation
- Use of natural colors; walls were not concealed by paint or wallpapers.
Above: Nathan G. Moore House; in Oak Park; reconstructed by Wright in 1923 after a fire destroyed the upper floor ...
A window from the Avery Coonley Playhouse, built 1912 [Art Institute]
Wright used glass both as a decorative element and as a transparent screen to unite outside n inside. In this window he has used balloons, the American flag and checkerboard patterns to create a colorful design.
ADDENDUM: Ernest Hemingway Birthplace
339 N. Oak Park Ave.
Oak Park 60302-2120
Ernest called Oak Park as a place of "wide lawns and narrow minds."