With his renowned home and studio in the heart of its historic district, Oak Park has long been a good launching pad for exploring Frank Lloyd Wright's architecture. However, many people don't know that Oak Park is also home to the largest collection of Wright-designed structures in the world. It's no surprise, as he spent the first 20and most prolificyears of his career in the charming and historically significant village that hugs Chicago's West Side.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of Frank Lloyd Wright, so there's no better time to embark on an odyssey to explore his architectural masterpieces. While each of Wright's designs are innovative and striking in their own right, a handful of marvels around Oak Park should be on your can't-miss list:
A National Historic Landmark and one of the most innovative structures of the 20th century, Wright called the Unity Temple in Oak Park his contribution to modern architecture. It is currently undergoing a comprehensive $23-million restoration, with the public rededication slated for June 17 and public tours to resume once again in July.
Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio
Arguably Wright's most illuminating design, the architect used his first homenestled in the heart of Oak Park's historic districtto experiment with design concepts that fundamentally shaped his architectural approach. The adjacent studio is said to be the birthplace of Prairie Style architecture, shedding a light on Wright's character and personal subtleties.
Built in 1902 and just steps from the home and studio, the Heurtley House is one of the world's earliest examples of Prairie Style architecture. Though interior tours are unavailable to the public, it boasts a number of admirable features like the Romanesque arch, slanted roof, and oversized bricksall bringing it a uniquely organic texture.
At 6,000 square feet and boasting a reflection pool, the Coonley House in neighboring Riverside is one of the largest Prairie Style homes in existence. The building's exterior showcases Wright's signature touches like low-hanging roofs, glass art windows and geometrical shapes. However, what sets this design apart is its flow; arranged as if four homes were attached, it offers a less typical but similarly breathtaking approach to Prairie Style design.
In addition to the tours offered year-round, the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust is rolling out a lineup of special events to commemorate the architect's 150th birthday. From revealing museum exhibits to rare glimpses at private Wright-designed homes, fans of his legacy simply can't miss the wide array of upcoming programs in and around Oak Park:
Wright Plus Housewalk ( Saturday, May 20 )
At this annual event, guests will enjoy in-depth tours of 10 spectacular structures in an easily walkable loop in Oak Parkincluding four private homes not generally open to the publicthat illustrate the beginnings of Prairie Style architecture. Special packages include a gourmet dinner at a private Wright home.
The Formation of the Japanese Print Collection: Frank Lloyd Wright and the Prairie School ( through July 23 )
This special exhibit at the renowned Art Institute of Chicago will highlight Wright's interest in Japan and his global fingerprint on architectural philosophy. Original photography from the first Wright exhibition in 1908, which was the first time the Institute displayed multiple artistic styles, will also be featured. Included with general admission.
Festive Neighborhood Open Houses ( Thursday, June 8 )
On Wright's actual 150th birthday, the Trust welcomes you to a Prairie-style birthday party. Some of Wright's most notable landmarksthe Home & Studio in Oak Park, the Robie House in Chicago, and the Bach House in Chicagowill roll out the red carpet for guests to enjoy complimentary tours and refreshments.
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