As an architecture buff, I had been drawn to the work of Frank Lloyd Wright for years before finally seeing his innovative Frederick C. Robie House on the South Side of Chicago last year.
The art-glass windows throughout the structure bring in an incredible amount of natural light. On the second floor, the living space is a large open room, complementing the structural transparency that Wright worked to incorporate in his designs.
The experience only heightened my admiration for him. I wanted to see more of his buildings, but I was out of time. I had to return to New York the next day.
This year, I made the time. I recently found myself back in Chicago riding an elevated train toward Oak Park, a leafy, diverse village adjacent to the city’s western edge with a population of 52,000.
As the glamour of North Michigan Avenue and the bustle of the downtown Loop receded with each passing stop, I was happy to make my way to suburbia. That is because Oak Park isn’t your typical suburb. It boasts 25 buildings that were designed or remodeled by Wright, the largest collection in the world.
Wright, a native of Richland Center, Wis., lived in Oak Park from 1889 until 1909, his formative years as an architect. From the late 19th century to the early 20th century, he and a group of architects in Chicago and its surrounding area designed buildings that were heavily influenced by the Prairie School. The style reflects modernity, incorporating features such as horizontal, low-sloping roofs that emulated flat Midwestern prairies. The school also promoted the use of natural materials in open spaces throughout the houses, further connecting them to the environment. […]