In the late nineteenth century, Chicago was a vigorous urban centre with many fortunes in the making. But, notwithstanding pockets of audacity in matters of taste, it was, in many ways, still a Prairie town with a critical mass of those who would prefer as little change as possible. From the point of view of architecture, while commercial and institutional projects could reflect with relative impunity the stirrings of modern perceptions, residential construction would tend to be locked into priorities of Victorian cautiousness and sentimentality.
Amidst this minefield, a young architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, remarkably, and even fatefully, threw caution to the wind. Shown here is Wright’s first creation (that would, with some irony, I think, come to be known as a ‘Prairie-Style masterpiece’), from the year 1895— his home and business headquarters, in Oak Park, Illinois.
The dining room, characteristically spare and crisp, where he, his wife and their six children would plunge toward the twentieth century—a century not without difficulties for them; but a century that he significantly shaped.
A light fixture over the dining room table. Wright was not simply a great architect but a correspondingly inventive designer of furnishings. Of special note is his lively interest in ceiling decor. The house was fitted for electricity three years before the power grid reached Oak Park.
An instance of another functional factor (windows) being embraced as art surfaces. Wright’s energies were closely linked to natural phenomena, a major affinity with avant-garde movements like Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts.
Not your four-poster, Victorian bed as a hideaway. The uncluttered aesthetic corresponded to his decidedly non-Victorian lifestyle.
The lamps he designed here comprise floral motifs; but they eschew Nouveau arabesques, and, in this and so many other touches, they point toward art deco. The exotic paintings he acquired were again in the vein of deco uncanniness.
When this structure was built, the view was Prairie all the way. Although the society was fussy, the terrain was cosmic; and, of course, Wright found the latter right up his alley.
Complementing his repertoire from biological nature, there is a treasure trove of geometrical, mathematical nature.
Two-dimensional and three-dimensional linearity adding up to something sublime.
You could spend hours on this work. For example, how about the middle panels that slightly jut out?
Several of the fantastic pieces are so close to the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh!
The drafting studio where his staff would work upon realizations of his basic concepts.
Wright’s office. The building is suffused with octagonal motifs.
The secretary’s office.
A glorious ceiling piece, both geometrical and vegetative in spirit.
So many perspectives involve interior darkness along with exterior light.
The reception room ceiling sculpture, prefiguring abstract art.
Minimalist ceiling sculpture that verges upon the Suprematist painting of Kasimir Malevich.
One of the other Frank Lloyd Wright projects in Oak Park, with geometry softened by the wood cladding.
Severe, clean, audacious and rich geometry. The greenery is definitely an ingredient.
A gem-like aura.
Fantastic linear play in that roof. Wright’s boundless energy is a gift to all of us.
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