Filed under: Arts & Architecture | Tags: architecture, history, prairie, style
The Prairie Style began in Chicago in the 1890’s and early 1900’s. The style is characterized by shallow pitched, hip roofs that have wide overhangs. The designs emphasize horizontal lines, and often have massive entries or porches. Frank Lloyd Wright was the master of this style although many other architects such as George W. Maher and Thomas E. Tallmadgemade important contributions as well. The style seemed to fade in popularity around 1920.
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.
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