Prairie School

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Chicago Avenue side of architect Frank Lloyd Wright's home and studio in Oak Park, Illinois, showing post-1911 changes to studio building. Habs flw oak park home.jpg
Chicago Avenue side of architect Frank Lloyd Wright's home and studio in Oak Park, Illinois, showing post-1911 changes to studio building.
Robie House, 1910. It is considered by many to be the quintessential Prairie house Frank Lloyd Wright - Robie House 2.JPG
Robie House, 1910. It is considered by many to be the quintessential Prairie house
Harold C. Bradley House, Madison, Wisconsin, by Louis Sullivan and George Grant Elmslie Harold-c-bradley-house.jpg
Harold C. Bradley House, Madison, Wisconsin, by Louis Sullivan and George Grant Elmslie
Woodbury County Courthouse, Iowa, by William L. Steele and Purcell and Elmslie (associate architects) Woodbury-county-courthouse.jpg
Woodbury County Courthouse, Iowa, by William L. Steele and Purcell and Elmslie (associate architects)

Prairie School is a late 19th- and early 20th-century architectural style, most common in the Midwestern United States. The style is usually marked by horizontal lines, flat or hipped roofs with broad overhanging eaves, windows grouped in horizontal bands, integration with the landscape, solid construction, craftsmanship, and discipline in the use of ornament. Horizontal lines were thought to evoke and relate to the wide, flat, treeless expanses of America's native prairie landscape.

Contents

The Prairie School was an attempt at developing an indigenous North American style of architecture in symphony with the ideals and design aesthetics of the Arts and Crafts Movement, with which it shared an embrace of handcrafting and craftsman guilds as an antidote to the dehumanizing effects of mass production.

The term Prairie School was not actually used by practitioners of the style. Architect Marion Mahony, for example, preferred the phrase The Chicago Group. Its term was coined by H. Allen Brooks, one of the first architectural historians to write extensively about the movement and its work. [1]

History

The Prairie School developed in symphony with the ideals and design aesthetics of the Arts and Crafts Movement begun in the late 19th century in England by John Ruskin, William Morris, and others. Along with the kindred American Craftsman movement it shared an embrace of handcrafting and craftsman guilds as a reaction against the new assembly line mass production manufacturing techniques, which was felt to create inferior products and dehumanize workers.

The Prairie School was also an attempt at developing an indigenous North American style of architecture that did not share design elements and aesthetic vocabulary with earlier styles of European classical architecture. Many talented and ambitious young architects had been attracted by building opportunities stemming from the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The World's Columbian Exposition (Chicago World's Fair) of 1893 was supposed to be a heralding of the city of Chicago's rebirth. But many of the young Midwestern architects of what would become the Prairie School were offended by the Greek and Roman classicism of nearly every building erected for the fair. In reaction, they sought to create new work in and around Chicago that would display a uniquely modern and authentically American style, which came to be called Prairie.

The designation Prairie is due to the dominant horizontality of the majority of Prairie style buildings, which echoes the wide, flat, treeless expanses of the mid-Western United States. The most famous proponent of the style, Frank Lloyd Wright, promoted an idea of "organic architecture" (p. 53), [2] the primary tenet of which was that a structure should look as if it naturally grew from the site. In the words of Wright, buildings that appeared as if they were "married to the ground." (p. 53) [2] Wright also felt that a horizontal orientation was a distinctly American design motif, in that the younger country had much more open, undeveloped land than found in most older and highly urbanized European nations.

Prairie School architects

The Prairie School is mostly associated with a generation of architects employed or influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright or Louis Sullivan, though usually not including Sullivan himself. While the style originated in Chicago, some Prairie School architects spread its influence well beyond the Midwest. A partial list of Prairie School architects includes:

Prairie School influence

Prairie School houses are characterized by open floor plans, horizontal lines, and indigenous materials. These were related to the American Arts and Crafts movement and its emphasis on hand craftsmanship, simplicity, and function. Both were alternatives to the then-dominant Classical Revival Style of Greek forms with occasional Roman influences. Some firms, such as Purcell & Elmslie, which accepted the honest presence of machine worked surfaces, consciously rejected the term "Arts and Crafts" for their work. The Prairie School was also heavily influenced by the Idealistic Romantics who believed better homes would create better people, and the Transcendentalist philosophy of Ralph Waldo Emerson. In turn, Prairie School architects influenced subsequent architectural idioms, particularly the less is more ethos of Minimalists and form following function in Bauhaus, itself a mixture of De Stijl grid-based design and Constructist emphasis on the structure itself and its building materials.

Architectural historians have debated the reasons why the Prairie School went out of favor by the mid-1920s. In her autobiography, Prairie School architect Marion Mahony suggests:

The enthusiastic and able young men as proved in their later work were doubtless as influential in the office later as were these early ones but Wright's early concentration on publicity and his claims that everybody was his disciple had a deadening influence on the Chicago group and only after a quarter of a century do we find creative architecture conspicuously evident in the United States. [3]

Prairie School buildings

The Meyer May House in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Built between 1908 and 1909, this Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home is considered "Michigan's Prairie masterpiece." Meyer May House, west side, 2009.JPG
The Meyer May House in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Built between 1908 and 1909, this Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home is considered "Michigan's Prairie masterpiece."

An example of Prairie School architecture is the aptly named "The Prairie School", a private day school in Racine, Wisconsin, designed by Taliesin Associates (an architectural firm originated by Wright), and located almost adjacent to Wright's Wingspread Conference Center. Mahony's and Griffin's work in Australia and India, notably the collection of homes at Castlecrag, New South Wales, are fine examples of how the Prairie School spread far from its Chicago roots. Isabel Roberts' Veterans' Memorial Library in St. Cloud, Florida, is another. [5] The House at 8 Berkley Drive at Lockport, New York was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009. [6]

The Oak Circle Historic District is a historic district in Wilmette, Illinois, United States. It primarily consists of fifteen single-family homes representative of the Prairie School and Craftsman styles of architecture constructed between 1917 and 1929. The Oak Circle Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places on June 21, 2001; it was the first historic district to be designated in Wilmette.

The Rock Crest–Rock Glen Historic District is a nationally recognized historic district located in Mason City, Iowa. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. All of the buildings are houses designed in the Prairie School style, and are a part of a planned development. Mason City is also home to The Historic Park Inn Hotel and City National Bank—two adjacent commercial buildings designed in the Prairie School style. Completed in 1910, the Historic Park Inn Hotel is the last remaining Frank Lloyd Wright-designed hotel in the world, of the six for which he was the architect of record. The Dr. G.C. Stockman House is another example of Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie School style found in Mason City, Iowa. Built in 1908, the Stockman House was the first Wright-designed Prairie School-style house in Iowa. Today, the house functions as a museum welcoming visitors and architectural enthusiasts from all around the world.

Modern interest

Interest in the ideas and designs of the Prairie School artists and architects has grown since the late 1980s, thanks in large part to celebrity collecting habits and high-profile auction results on many of the decorative designs from buildings of the era. In addition to numerous books, magazine articles, videos and merchandise promoting the movement, a number of original Prairie School building sites have become public museums, open for tours and special interactive events. Several not-for-profit organizations and on-line communities have been formed to educate people about the Prairie School movement and help preserve the designs associated with it. Some of these organizations and sites are listed in the External links section below.

See also

Notes

  1. Mahony uses the phrase Chicago Group in her unpublished autobiography Magic in America. The best known of H. Allen Brooks's publications on the Prairie School is The Prairie School: Frank Lloyd Wright and His Midwest Contemporaries, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1972.
  2. 1 2 Jones, Cranston (April 27, 1959). "The Finale at 89 For a Fiery Genius: Death Ends Wright's Flamboyant Career". LIFE Magazine. Retrieved August 23, 2018.
  3. Griffin, Marion Mahony, The Magic of America, p. 580
  4. Storrer, William A. (2002). The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. University of Chicago Press. p. 146.
  5. Roberts, Isabel (28 June 2010), Works (photograms), Florida.
  6. "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places . National Park Service. March 13, 2009.

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Walter Burley Griffin American architect and landscape architect

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Marion Mahony Griffin American architect and artist

Marion Mahony Griffin was a pioneering American architect and artist. She was one of the first licensed female architects in the world, and is considered an original member of the Prairie School. Her work in the United States developed and expanded the American Prairie School, and her work in India and Australia reflected Prairie School ideals of indigenous landscape and materials in the newly formed democracies. The scholar Deborah Wood stated that Griffin "did the drawings people think of when they think of Frank Lloyd Wright ."

William Gray Purcell was a Prairie School architect in the Midwestern United States. He partnered with George Grant Elmslie, and briefly with George Feick. The firm of Purcell & Elmslie produced designs for buildings in twenty-two states, Australia, and China. The firm had offices in Minneapolis, Minnesota; Chicago, Illinois; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Portland, Oregon.

George Grant Elmslie was a Scottish-born American Prairie School architect whose work is mostly found in the Midwestern United States. He worked with Louis Sullivan and later with William Gray Purcell as a partner in the firm Purcell & Elmslie.

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Purcell & Elmslie (P&E) was the most widely know iteration of a progressive American architectural practice. P&E was the second most commissioned firm of the Prairie School, after Frank Lloyd Wright. The firm in all iterations was active from 1907 to 1921, with their most famous work being done between 1913 and 1921.

George W. Maher American architect

George Washington Maher was an American architect during the first quarter of the 20th century. He is considered part of the Prairie School-style and was known for blending traditional architecture with the Arts & Crafts-style.

John Shellette Van Bergen was an American architect born in Oak Park, Illinois. Van Bergen started his architectural career as an apprentice draftsman in 1907. In 1909 he went to work for Frank Lloyd Wright at his studio in Oak Park. At Wright's studio he did working drawings for and supervised the Robie House and the Mrs. Thomas Gale House. Van Bergen designed prairie style homes in the Chicago area, mostly in the suburbs of Oak Park and River Forest. His home designs are recognized as excellent examples of Prairie style architecture and several are listed as local landmarks. A few of his homes are listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

Barry Byrne American architect

Francis Barry Byrne was a member of the group of architects known as the Prairie School. After the demise of the Prairie School, about 1914 to 1916, Byrne continued as a successful architect by developing his own style.

Isabel Roberts House Historic house in Illinois, United States

Isabel Roberts House is a 1908 Prairie Style house by architect Frank Lloyd Wright, located at 603 Edgewood Place in River Forest, Illinois It was built for Isabel Roberts and her widowed mother, Mary Roberts.

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Park Inn Hotel United States historic place

The Historic Park Inn Hotel and City National Bank are two adjacent commercial buildings located in downtown Mason City, Iowa, United States which were designed in the Prairie School style by the renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Completed in 1910, the Park Inn Hotel is the last remaining Frank Lloyd Wright-designed hotel in the world, of the six for which he was the architect of record. The City National Bank is one of only two remaining Frank Lloyd Wright-designed banks in the world. It was the first Frank Lloyd Wright-designed project in the state of Iowa, and today carries both major architectural and historical significance. In 1999, the Park Inn Hotel was named on the Iowa Historic Preservation Alliance's Most Endangered Properties List.

George Rodney Willis, was an American architect associated with the Prairie School and the Oak Park, Illinois studio of Frank Lloyd Wright who thereafter had a successful career in California and in Texas.

Lawrence A. and Mary Fournier House United States historic place

The Lawrence A. and Mary Fournier House is a historic bungalow in the Cleveland neighborhood of Minneapolis, built in 1910. It was designed by architect Lawrence Fournier as a home for himself and his family. It blends early Prairie School-style elements with American Craftsman architecture. It was also one of the first houses built in North Minneapolis.

Hermann V. von Holst (1874–1955) was an American architect practicing in Chicago, Illinois, and Boca Raton, Florida, from the 1890s to the 1940s. He is best remembered for agreeing to take on the responsibility of heading up Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural practice when Wright went off to Europe with Mamah Cheney in 1909.

Charles E. White Jr. (1876–1936) was a noted Chicago area architect who for a time worked in the Oak Park studio of Frank Lloyd Wright and who, both before and after that time, had a successful and influential career as an architect and a writer on architectural subjects. It is fair to say that White is an under-appreciated member of Wright’s Oak Park studio staff.

Hartington City Hall and Auditorium United States historic place

The Hartington City Hall and Auditorium, also known as the Hartington Municipal Building, is a city-owned, brick-clad, 2-story center in Hartington, Nebraska. It was designed between 1921 and 1923 in the Prairie School style by architect William L. Steele (1875–1949).

George Mann Niedecken Prairie style interior architect

George Mann Niedecken was a prairie style furniture designer and interior architect from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He is best known for his collaboration with the architect Frank Lloyd Wright. He also designed interiors for Marion Mahony Griffin who was one of the first female architects.

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