Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio Tour

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Officially labeled the “greatest American architect of all time” by the American Institute of Architects, Frank Lloyd Wright’s influence on the world of architecture is indisputable. Living to the age of 91, Lloyd Wright’s tenure in the field of architecture was long-lived, and it all began in his Oak Park, IL home and studio. Revealing much of the genius behind the Prairie School of design which Lloyd Wright founded, visiting this home and studio is unique opportunity for architecture lovers to truly understand some of the influences and brilliance of this icon of American architecture.

History

Though he was just another talented boy with potential when he designed this home in 1889, the entire building was an experimental laboratory which helped to form the legacy that Frank Lloyd Wright created in the years to come. Shortly after leaving the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Wright took an apprenticeship with the architecture firm of Adler & Sullivan in Chicago and married his first wife, Katherine. It was his early relationship with Louis Sullivan that led to the purchase of the land on the corner of Chicago and Forest Avenues in the Oak Park suburb. Wright immediately set to work on the design of the house and in-home studio which would flex his creative muscles and foreshadow much of the work that he would later develop over his 20 year tenure in Oak Park.

Wright terminated his employment at Adler & Sullivan in 1893 when it was discovered by Louis Sullivan that he was designing residential buildings in the Chicago area on his own time, a practice which his contract with the firm forbade. He then began to work for himself, partnering temporarily with other Chicago-area architects to design commercial and residential properties in the Chicago-land area. He was then also free to continue his work in Oak Park and nearby River Forest, IL. Over time, this work developed into the largest single area of Wright buildings in the world.

This emphasis on residential work led Wright out of the city proper and into a home studio in Oak Park. However, because of his expanding family, Katherine is mother to six of Wright’s seven children, this move necessitated the construction of a new building next to the house proper. Constructed in 1898, the studio addition to the Oak Park house is located to the north of the residence. It includes a hanging balcony within a two-story space, one Wright’s first structural experiments which would become his cornerstone in later years. It is within this studio that many of the early concepts of Wright’s design style were conceived even though he left it for good in 1909, upon the (functional) end of his marriage to Katherine.

Over the years, the use of the Frank Lloyd Wright home in Oak Park was varied according to the needs of the family who remained there as well as the estate following Wright’s death in 1959. The studio was, for a time, converted to a boarding house, for example. However, the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust began an effort in the 1970s which spanned over 13 years and cost nearly $3 million and aimed to restore the home to its 1909 condition, the last year that Wright lived there. Their success in doing so was recognized by the American Institute of Architects who awarded the Home & Studio in its present form with their prestigious National Honor award.

Main Attraction

Docent-guided tours are the only option when it comes to visiting the Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio in Oak Park. Offered daily, there are two main options for tours at this location: the home and museum itself and a guided walking tour of the Oak Park district, which is full of additional Frank Lloyd Wright designs. The interior tour lasts approximately 45-60 minutes and includes insight into Wright himself, his family life, and the influences he encountered from 1889-1909 which led to the Prairie style of American architecture.

The guided walking tour of the historic Oak Park district and Wright’s influences therein is an additional 60-75 minutes long and can be combined with an interior tour. As the home of the largest collection of Wright’s designs, Oak Park itself offers unique insights into the development of Wright’s residential style through his early years. These tours are only available on weekends.

Why It’s a Must-See

Architecture lovers the world over already revere Frank Lloyd Wright for his contribution to what is known as “organic architecture” and the Prairie School of design which flowed from it. When visiting the Chicago area, these fans have the unique opportunity to see exactly where these ideas took shape and perhaps glean some of the reasons why.

Where to Buy It

There are a number of ways you can enjoy admission to this attraction.

1. Purchase a ticket from the Frank Lloyd Wright Home when you get there.

2. .  

3. Purchase as part of a money saving package. Popular examples to the right.

4. Purchase a Tourist pass. The Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio Tour is available on the Go Chicago Card.