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4 Iconic Frank Lloyd Wright Buildings in Chicago

The Rookery

rookery lobbyThe architectural pair Daniel H. Burnham and John Wellborn Root, as Burnham and Root, collaborated in 1887-1888 to create the famous Rookery building in the wake of the Great Chicago Fire. The 11 story building was one of the city's very first skyscrapers and remains the oldest standing skyscraper in Chicago to this day. Root, inspired by Moorish, Byzantine, Ventian and Romanesque styles to create its recognziable interior and exteriors, while using then modern building fashions to create a contemporary masterwork. However, in 1905, a then-young Frank Lloyd Wright was commissioned, in his first major gig, to renovate the interior lobby of the Rookery, in the famous light court. Wright brought his Prairie style to the interior of the lobby, and also added significant white marble and golden colored Persian-style ornamentation to the lobby. His geometric lighting fixtures complement the court, opening up the space to more available light. The lobby, having undergone renovation yet again in the 1930's, has since been restored to Frank Lloyd Wright's original design.


Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio

FLR-home-and-studioWith a $5,000 loan from his mentor and then-boss Louis Sullivan (another highly influential Chicago architect), a 22 year old Frank Lloyd Wright designed his own home in Oak Park for him to live and work in with his family. Living there from 1889-1909, Wright designed many of his iconic Chicago buildings from that house,  including the Robie House and Unity Temple, as seen below. The young architect used the opportunity to experiment with new ideas and styles. He used wide doorways, rooms that seamlessly lead to each other to create an open feel, even though it was inset from the street with an exterior wall to give the property a sense of privacy. Wright cultivated an illuminated atmosphere through skylights and recessed lighting. In the studio and corresponding drafting room, the budding artist innovated a new style of American architecture with the help of his collaborators, mere feet away from where he slept.



The Unity Temple

unity templeFrank Lloyd Wright came from a family of Unitarians, a faith verty similar to Universalism. The Universalists tapped Frank Lloyd Wright to build them a new church after the original Unity Church burned down in 1905. Wright, in turn, crafted one of his earliest masterworks, which doubles as one of the most influential modern buildings of the early 20th century. Utilizing, what was then a modern building material, reinforced concrete, Wright used a bipartite design to separate the community space of the temple, in what ended up being a square structure. Augmenting the structure is Wright's green, yellow and brown stained glass windows, which evoke natural hues. The architect crafted the space to have good acoustics so that the pastor can be heard. Even the seating of the congregation is efficiently conceived: no one in the congregation is farther than 40 feet from the pulpit in Lloyd's design. The temple, with its ingenious use of space and forward looking conception, went on to be incredibly influential to other modernist and post-modernists, including Mis Van Der Rohe and Frank Gehry.



Robie House

robie houseFinished in 1910, Robie House is considered the pinnacle of Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie School architectural style. The house's horizontal planes were representative of the mid-west American prairies for Wright. The Robie House features cantilever roof eaves which were one of the architect's trademarks and continuing obsessions for much of his career. Another Wright flourish was the use of Roman brick on the exterior, which, with their slim horizontal shape helped solidify the prairie sensibility. The architect designed everything on the exterior and interior of the house, much like his other buildings. As he wrote around this time, "it is quite impossible to consider the building one thing and its furnishings another. ... They are all mere structural details of its character and completeness." The art-glass windows feature patterns of both stained and clear glass that take advantage of the 30 and 60-degree angles that Wright was partial to. This barely scratches the surface of the design ideas and innovations that the Robie House laid the groundwork for. In a 1957 edition of House and Home magazine, it was said of the house, "By any standard his Robie house was the House of the 1900s--indeed the House of the Century...Without this house, much of modern architecture as we know it today, might not exist."

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