You are on page 1of 8

1893-1920: Prairie Style

A Revolutionary New House Style by Frank Lloyd Wright



The Frederic C. Robie House in Chicago is widely considered Frank Lloyd Wright's finest example of
the Prairie style. It was built in 1909. . Photo Luiz Gadelha Jr., Imgadelha at flickr.com, Attribution 2.0 Generic
(CC BY 2.0)
Frank Lloyd Wright transformed the American home when he began to
design "Prairie" style houses with low horizontal lines and open interior
spaces.
Prairie style houses usually have these features:
Low-pitched roof
Overhanging eaves
Horizontal lines
Central chimney
Open floor plan
Clerestory windows
About the Prairie Style:
Frank Lloyd Wright believed that rooms in Victorian era homes were boxed-in
and confining. He began to design houses with low horizontal lines and open
interior spaces. Rooms were often divided by leaded glass panels. Furniture
was either built-in or specially designed. These homes were called prairie
style after Wright's 1901
Ladies Home Journal plan titled, "A Home in a Prairie Town." Prairie houses
were designed to blend in with the flat, prairie landscape.
The first Prairie houses were usually plaster with wood trim or sided with
horizontal board and batten. Later Prairie homes used concrete block. Prairie
homes can have many shapes: Square, L-shaped, T-shaped, Y-shaped, and
even pinwheel-shaped.
Many other architects designed Prairie homes and the style was popularized
by pattern books. The popular American Foursquare style, sometimes called
the Prairie Box, shared many features with the Prairie style.
In 1936, during the USA depression, Frank Lloyd Wright developed a
simplified version of Prairie architecture called Usonian. Wright believed these
stripped-down houses represented the democratic ideals of the United States.
Famous Prairie Houses by Frank Lloyd Wright
1893: William Winslow Residence
River Forest, Illinois. Although this house uses ornamentation in the fashion
of Louis Sullivan, it also shows elements of the new Prairie style. The house
is a symmetrical rectangle.
1901: Frank W. Thomas House
Oak Park, Illinois. Widely considered Wright's first Prairie Style house in
Oak Park, and one of his earliest uses of stucco.
1902: Arthur Heurtley House
Oak Park, Illinois. This low, compact house has variegated brickwork with
vibrant color and rough texture.
1909: Robie Residence (shown above)
This Frank Lloyd house in Chicago is widely considered Wright's finest
example of the Prairie style.


Prairie School Architecture
Prairie School was a late 19th and early 20th century architectural style. It has its
roots in the city of Chicago, Illinois. It was most common in the Midwestern United
States, but its influence was felt around the world especially in north-central
Europe and Australia.
Prairie School style architecture is usually marked by its integration with the
surrounding landscape, horizontal lines, flat or hipped roofs with broad eaves,
windows assembled in horizontal bands, solid construction, craftsmanship, and
restraint in the use of decoration. Horizontal lines were intended to unify the
structure with the native prairie landscape of the Midwest.
The emergence of the Prairie School style was nourished by a small group of
dedicated individuals obsessed with the idea of creating a new American
architecture. They wanted to develop an architecture style suitable to the American
Midwest and independent of historical and revivalist influence. The movement
attracted young designers, the best known among them being Louis H. Sullivan and
Frank Lloyd Wright. The term "Prairie School" was not used by the architects to
describe themselves, it was actually coined by one of the first historians to write
comprehensively about these architects and their work, H. Allen Brooks.
The Prairie School developed in tandem with the ideals and design philosophies of
the Arts and Crafts Movement started in the late 19th century in England by John
Ruskin, William Morris, and others. An alternative to the then-dominant Classical
Revival influence, both architectural styles share a desire for simplicity and function.
Like Arts and Crafts, the Prairie school embraced handcrafting and craftsman guilds
as a response in opposition to the new assembly line, which they felt resulted in
mediocre products and dehumanized workers.
The Prairie School was an attempt at developing an authentic North American
architectural style that did not share design elements with earlier European
architecture. Many ambitious young architects had been attracted to redevelopment
opportunities that arose from the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The World's
Columbian Exposition of 1893, otherwise known as the Chicago World's Fair, was
supposed to herald Chicago's rise from the ashes. But the architects of what would
become the Prairie School were disturbed by the Greek and Roman classicism of
nearly every building constructed for the fair.
Several of these young architects decided to create new projects throughout the
Chicago area that would display a uniquely modern and authentically American
style. They began sharing loft space in the newly built Steinway Hall in Chicago's
Loop in 1896. The space was shared with Frank Lloyd Wright, Robert C. Spencer, Jr.,
Myron Hunt, Dwight H. Perkins, Walter Burley Griffin, and Marion Mahony Griffin,
the first licensed female architect in the United States. The result was a vigorous
intellectual, artistic exchange which would create the Prairie School style.
The dominant horizontality of Prairie style construction echoes the wide, flat, tree-
less expanses of the mid-Western United States. Frank Lloyd Wright, the most
famous proponent of the style, promoted an idea of "organic architecture," the
primary principle of which was that a structure should look as if it belongs on the
site, as if it naturally grew there. Wright also considered the horizontal orientation of
Prairie style to be a distinctly American design idea: The young United States had
much more open, undeveloped land than in most ancient, urbanized European
nations.
The Prairie School was heavily influenced by the Transcendentalist philosophy of
Ralph Waldo Emerson and the Idealistic Romantics, who believed that better homes
would create better people. Subsequently, Prairie School architects influenced
architectural styles that followed, particularly the Minimalist (less is more), Bauhaus
(form follows function), De Stijl (grid-based design) and Constructivism (which
emphasized the structure itself and the building materials).
Architectural historians have debated why the Prairie School went out of favor.
Some of its vitality was sapped during the First World War, when homebuilders'
attitudes turned more conservative. They spurned building concepts that expressed
an idea rather than traditional architectural forms, such as the relevance of a
building to the landscape. But perhaps serious consideration of one of the Prairie
Schools own associates musings on the topic would be worth some attention. In her
autobiography, Marion Mahony Griffin writes:
"The enthusiastic and able young men as proved in their later work were doubtless
as influential in the office later as were these early ones but Wright's early
concentration on publicity and his claims that everybody was his disciple had a
deadening influence on the Chicago group and only after a quarter of a century do
we find creative architecture conspicuously evident in the United States."


Want to learn Spanish surrounded by Gaud's funky shapes and buildings? With Enforex, you're in
luck!
Our Barcelona Spanish school enjoys a prime location in the Eixample district, where Modernista
buildings flank the wide boulevards and the spires of the Sagrada Familia soar into the air. Sign up for
any of our diverse Spanish courses and Gaud's incredible creations can be part of your daily walk to
school!
Read on for all sorts of information about the life, influences, style and works of Gaud, and we hope
to see you soon here in Barcelona!
Antonio Gaudi: Life Story
One of the singular most famous architects of the 19th and 20th century, Antonio Gaudi has become
an international superstar whose work continues to inspire audiences throughout the world and whose
name evades noone. Today, no Barcelona guidebook would be complete without a Gaudi creation
blessing its cover and our whole perception of modern architecture would be different had this
creative legend not left his mark around the streets of Barcelona. So how did the infamous Antonio
Gaudi spend his youth?
Born in the province of Tarragona, southern Catalunya, in 1852, Antoni Gaudi i Cornet was the
youngest of five siblings. His pensive and observant nature is said to have come from suffering from
rheumatism as a child, meaning he could not run around with the same freedom as the other children.
This did not, however, impede him from following his dream and in 1873 he entered into the Escola
Tcnica Superior d'Arquitectura in Barcelona, where he studied until the age of 25. During this time he
complemented his studies by helping out local architects and gaining experience.


Antonio Gaudi began to receive commissions as soon as he was out of school. He started with
smaller projects, like designing lampposts for the Plaa Reial in Barcelona, but this was enough to
raise his profile into the limelight.
After his first few years, Gaudi began to come into his own as he broke away from architectural norms
and classical styles. He spent until the end of the 19th century producing building after building, each
time his sense of direction becoming more prominent. By the beginning of the 20th century Antonio
Gaudi was producing the pieces of work that have made him so famous today, his productivity levels
were high and his style more unique. However, he did not always receive the popular vote of
confidence that he does today - at the time when he was creating and producing he was criticised for
his outgoing and daring constructions far more than he was complemented. Fortunately, the few
people he did have on his side were wealthy and willing to invest in funding the man they knew would
become every architect's hero.
Antonio Gaudi started work on his most famous building, the Sagrada Familia, in 1884 and he
continued to work on it throughout his life, dedicating his final years to perfecting it. It was at this
monumental landmark in 1926 when Gaudi he was hit by a tram and died, aged 74.
Between 1984 and 2005 seven of Antonio Gaudi's most important works were given UNESCO World
Heritage status to ensure their protection.
Antonio Gaudi: Architectural Style
Most closely associated with the Modernist movement, Antonio Gaudi set the standard for all those
who were to follow in his footsteps, and he set it high.
However, the elements that characterise his most famous works emerged after years of observation,
trial and error. Gaudi's first years out of architecture school saw him spend some time playing around
with forms that already existed, in particular, the gothic trend for spires, pointed arches and columns.
The work of Eugne Viollet-le-duc was of particular interest to Gaudi. This famous nineteenth century
French architect mainly focussed on the restoration of old cathedrals and castles, with a keen focus
on the structure of the building and a strong gothic style.
As Antonio Gaudi began to work on the Sagrada Familia in 1884 his work began to come in to its own
and the seeds of his distinctive style were sown. However, it was not until the start of the twentieth
century that Gaudi entered into his most productive period and sealed his reputation as one of the
most innovative architects of all time. Ofcourse, as with many truly famous people, he was not fully
appreciated until after his death. During his lifetime he was subject to a lot of criticism for his unusual
ideas and styles.
Gaudi's architectural approach tends to begin with organic, biomorphic forms from which it spirals out
into an artistic collage of thoughts, feelings and moods. Much of his work uses soft, fluid formations
rather than harsh, solid lines, for example, Casa Mil ("La Pedrera"), whose exterior mimics the
flowing waves of the sea. The terraced roof of the building offers a truly characteristic vista into the
Gaudiesque with its irregular chimneys standing tall like soldiers, covered with multicoloured broken
tiles.
Casa Batll is another of Antonio Gaudi's most iconic creations and is a truly fantastical building set to
capture the imagination of anyone who sets eyes on it. Faced with the task of simply restoring the
faade of this old house, Gaudi let his creative flair run wild and produced a perfect representation of
his artistic vision. And this is what Gaudi was all about. Pushing the boundaries of what it was
possible to achieve as an architect and creating buildings that are unique. Since finishing the
multicoloured faade of Casa Batll, with shining chunks of glass adorning its walls and its scaled roof
like the immense spine of a dragon, nothing has even come close to capturing this level of fantasy
within a functional building. Casa Batll is more like something you would find in Disneyland than on a
normal Barcelona street. And yet there it stands, brightening the days of passersby and inspiring all
who see it. A bit of fun amidst the haze of an urban metropolis.
Antonio Gaudi: Famous Works
Lampposts for the Plaa Reial, Barcelona, Spain (1878)
Casa Vicens, Barcelona, Spain (1878-1880 UNESCO World Heritage site since 2005)
Work on the Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain (1884-1926 Nativity Faade and Crypt UNESCO
World Heritage site since 2005)
Palau Gell, Barcelona, Spain (1885-1889 UNESCO World Heritage site since 1984)
Crypt of Colonia Gell, Santa Coloma de Cervell, Catalunya (1898-1916 UNESCO World
Heritage site since 2005)
Casa Calve, Barcelona, Spain (1899-1904)
Parc Gell, Barcelona, Spain (1900-1914 UNESCO World Heritage site since 1984)
Casa Batll, Barcelona, Spain (1905-1907 UNESCO World Heritage site since 2005)
Casa Mila, Barcelona, Spain (1905-1907 UNESCO World Heritage site since 2005)