|Postcard view of the Palace of Fina Arts, Chicago|
(Architect: Charles B. Atwood, 1893)
Umpteen heroes of American architecture are represented here: Louis Sullivan (you know—“form follows function”) contributed the monumental Auditorium Building in partnership with Dankmar Adler, and ten years later gave Chicago the lyrically ornamented Carson, Pirie & Scott store—the swan song of his brilliant but tragic career.
|Lake Shore Drive Apartments, Chicago.|
(Mies van der Rohe, 1949)
More than anything else, though, Chicago is a showcase for the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. The brilliant, defiant and egocentric Wright is considered the greatest architect the United States has produced, a status that’s only grown more secure in the years since his death in 1959 at 92.
At the close of the nineteenth century, it was largely Wright who broke the Victorian stranglehold of artifice and eclecticism in architecture, and who pioneered so many of our modern residential ideals: open planning; honest use of materials; and integration of the building to its site.
|Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, Chicago (Oak Park):|
The beginning of an architectural revolution.
In Oak Park, in Wright’s day a quiet suburb, one can literally walk from one Wright masterpiece to the next, witnessing an architectural revolution one house at a time. It’s here that we first see Wright begin to tamper with Victorian architectural conventions, and finally discard them altogether. Among the earliest examples is Wright’s own home, begun in 1889 with $5000 loaned to him by his “lieber Meister”, Louis Sullivan. Subsequent Oak Park commissions show his style slowly mature into the now-familiar Wright hallmarks: the low, broad-eaved roofs; the banded casement windows with their dazzling leaded glass panes; the massive central chimneys which anchor the homes to their sites.
|Wright's Oak Park home for bicycle magnate Frederick C. Robie (1909),|
considered the apogee of Wright's "Prairie Style" phase.
(Image: Garret Karp View for Open House Chicago)
In Hyde Park stands the culmination of Wright’s Prairie House phase, the residence he built for bicycle manufacturer Frederick C. Robie in 1909. It’s a design so extraordinarily “modern” as to make one wonder if any real progress has been made in architecture since.
Although Wright’s subsequent commissions took him to New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo and Baghdad, Chicago affords the most fascinating glimpse of Wright’s career: the shaping of an extraordinary vision, and the solitary path of genius.