It’s the American dream to live on a safe, pretty street, where each house is different yet esthetically pleasing and where everyone knows your name. In Oak Park, Illinois, the one name everyone knows is Frank Lloyd Wright, who literally built this neighborhood from the ground up.
The most celebrated American architect was born in 1867 in Wisconsin but laid roots in Oak Park with his family, building his studio and home in 1898 and nearly 30 other homes and commercial buildings in this Chicago suburb.
When I was young my Dad’s creativity amazed me. As an architect, he thought in measured terms, always, but as an artist, he thought in terms of art and palette and design. While planning our family home, he placed pocket doors between the common rooms and nearly designed our deck around the massive oak tree, rather than cut it down. The front windows were symmetrical to run with the roof-line, while the cathedral ceiling vaulted upwards towards the sky and the massive oak.
It wasn’t until I visited Wright’s home and studio (951 Chicago Avenue, Oak Park, IL) that I knew how much he had influenced my Dad’s sense of nature and design. I felt at home in Wright’s home. The layout, the synergistic blending of nature and environment, the room built around a tree indoors, all reminded me of my Dad. Wright’s home was like our home and I felt blessed.
Wright would have been 145 years old this month. His influence and Prairie style school of architecture will last for generations. His design of the home known as Fallingwater, is iconic of the Prairie style and is said to be the best all-time work of American architecture. Architects today draw with computers and build upwards. Architects like Wright and my Dad drew with their soul through their hands and built around them.
Visitors to Chicago should make time to visit this special neighborhood and Wright’s home. It is a short train ride away from the city center on the Green Line and so worth the effort.