American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, best known for his Prairie-style architecture, has many examples of his work throughout the Chicago area, most notably in Oak Park, the west suburb adjacent to Chicago.
The city is home to 25 buildings and houses designed by the notable architect – the world’s largest collection in one area. The Robie House sits on the south side of the city, near the University of Chicago campus in Hyde Park, and it's always worth the visit.
But for true architecture fans, no visit to the Chicago area is complete without a Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio tour.
Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio in Oak Park — Photo courtesy of Frank Lloyd Wright Trust
Located in the leafy suburb of Oak Park, Wright’s first home served as his laboratory. His studio was adjacent to his home, and this is the place where he liked to experiment with design concepts that would later become known as a new American architectural style: the Prairie style.
Today, hundreds of visitors pass through the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio on Chicago Avenue in Oak Park daily as part of a guided interior tour. Tours are held every 30 minutes, and the weekend ones sell out fast, so you’ll want to book those in advance.
For those who want to see more of his work throughout Oak Park, the crown jewel is the annual Wright Plus Housewalk in mid-May. A bit like an Amazing Race competition, coveted ticket-holders have access to some of the area’s architectural gems that are never open to the public other than on this date.
In 2015, the Avery Coonley residence in Riverside, designed by Wright in 1908, will be open, as will the Oscar B. Balch House that Wright designed a few years later. It features some of his transitional work.
Tickets to the Wright Plus Housewalk sell out quickly, since it’s an annual and much sought-out event among locals and visitors.
Those who want an entire weekend of Wright can book the Wright Plus Friday and Sunday excursions for daylong trips to Wright-designed sites just outside of Chicago. A luxury coach bus takes guests to the B. Harley Bradley House in Kankakee, Illinois and the S.C. Johnson Administration Building and Research Tower in Racine, Wis.
Younger architectural fans who have read Blue Balliett’s novel The Wright 3 might enjoy a tour led by fifth and 10th grade junior interpreters at the Robie House. The tours are short (about 30 to 40 minutes in length, depending on how fast your interpreter goes) and available every Saturday.
The interpreters do a nice job calling out scenes from the mystery novel and asking questions from audience members who’ve read the book, making the tour that much more memorable and enjoyable for young fans.