The Prairie style of architecture was developed in Chicago by Frank Lloyd Wright. To discover all about his Prairie Style,
Meghan Carter of http://www.AsktheDecorator.com visited the Robie House, the quintessential Prairie Style house, to learn the characterisitecs of the Prairie Style and what made it so significant to American architecture.
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Meghan: The prairie style of architecture was developed here in the Chicago area by Frank Lloyd Wright. Now the quintessential example of prairie style is the Robie House, which is the house that I am actually standing in and I am here to learn all about the hallmarks of the style.
I am hitting the road searching for answers and finding great designs. It is across the beauty function and of course inspiration.
To discover all about the prairie style, I head into the Robie House in Chicago to meet with Karen Sweeney the Director of Restoration for the Robie House.
So Frank Lloyd Wright used many different styles?
Meghan: Was he the creator of the Prairie Style or had that started before him?
Karen: His office creates a style of building that then later gets labeled as the Prairie style.
Meghan: So he did not name himself?
Karen: He did not name it, no. Architectural historians have named it the Prairie Style.
Karen: When he goes as he starts building buildings that he feels is appropriate to the Prairie to the setting they are in. So he has these long horizontal buildings with overhangs that reinforce it even more, bands of windows, and bands of masonry of stucco massing that really makes it feel like a prairie house because it hugs the prairie.
Meghan: Because prairie’s are low and flat?
Karen: Prairie’s are low and flat
Meghan: And sprawling.
Karen: Yes, so that then the houses you build in them should be low and flat but it does take a few things that he feels like typical of American architecture; One is hearth at the center of the building. And they have the hearth at the center of building and have the building rotate around it and his prairie houses had several standard floor plans that vary on that where you would have that central hearth and then the building radiate around it.
Meghan: Wright, abstract interpretation of the prairie in the styling of his prairie homes did not end with his use of long horizontal masses. Practically, every part of the home was decorated with or created as abstract forms typically inspired by nature and the archives is very geometric.
Karen: Very geometric.
Meghan: It is none flowing. It is all little tiny shapes.
Karen: Yet, he calls it organic because he is taking forms in nature but abstracting them to then, which other artist were doing at the same time. I mean this is all kind of a synergy of minds when people are doing stuff like this. But Mr. Wright just always seems to take it that one step further and really elaborate on it in architecture.
Meghan: So really it is almost geometric abstract images.
Karen: Yes and everything is like that. He has his lay lights in here that have this geometric shape. He has light fixtures that relatively making reproductions of—
Meghan: And even the carpet has that.
Karen: Even the carpet has that.
Meghan: Right, scrupulous attention and detail extended beyond the design of his homes and geometric patterns to his use of material, each material had a specific purpose to Wright and could not be interchanged. As a result Wright had great care when choosing each material and when at times have specific instructions for how each materials should be installed.
Are there any material that are commonly used because I know there is lots of wood and there is lot of glass.
Karen: Typically, lots of wood, lots of glass, and the interior plaster usually texturized. He tries in several different buildings, different finishes on it,. in this building it is called—it is painted but it is dry brush so there is actually three different colors of paint that go on the walls and there is actually when he hits it with a wire brush to actually expose some of the plaster aggregate. So it is a mixture of all three, some of the other buildings had wax finishes on it. Bees wax and stuff like that. So he tries all sorts of organic things to try and get different finishes on the walls.
Meghan: Now, I know there are certain bricks that are used in prairie style homes.
Karen: Yes, Roman bricks. They are long and horizontal and