Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Magnificent Homes of America - Robie House by Frank Lloyd Wright

It's been called 
one of the most important buildings in American architecture.
I call it...
A Game Changer!



THE ROBIE HOUSE
designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1908,
is a masterpiece of the Prairie Style.
But more significantly,
it is considered to be the forerunner of 
contemporary architectural design.
It was THIS house that started a revolution...
and I can see why after I experienced it for myself.


Mr. Wright created this unique residence
for Frederick C. Robie, a 28 year old businessman who
was assistant manager of his father's company, Excelsior Supply Company.
A progressive thinker,
Robie couldn't wait to put his mark on the Hyde Park neighborhood
where he and his wife, an alumnus of the University of Chicago, planned to live.
And he certainly wasn't disappointed with the plan Wright came up with!

Low slung and linear, this design is the best known example of Prairie Style,
a term coined by architectural critics who saw a correlation between the buildings and
the landscape and plant life of the Midwest prairie of the United States.


Wright mimicked this vision of never-ending fields and sweeping vistas
with strong horizontal lines.
The cantilevered roof eaves,
continuous bands of windows, and even the unusual size of Roman brick,
which was longer and narrower than standard, all worked together to symbolize the landscape.


He went so far as to dictate how the mortar was applied:
the horizontal joints were filled with cream-colored mortar and the
small vertical joints were filled with brick-colored mortar
so the eye saw more of a horizontal orientation.
Talk about DETAIL!!!

And his obsession with detail didn't stop there.
He insisted on controlling every aspect of the interior design, including
all the windows, lighting, rugs, furniture and textiles.
During the project, Wright wrote,
"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."


I love the custom art glass throughout the house.  Reminiscent of sheaths of wheat,
this design again reminds us of the prairie lands, but in a much more graphic way.

Courtesy of flickr.com

The art glass is one of many design elements used to
create continuity and flow from space to space.
But Wright also knew when to throw in a "curve ball"
as you see in this entrance hall.  The circular cut-out in the ceiling
is the ONLY curve in the entire house!
Why did he do it?
He wanted a visually appealing way to lead you to the stairway
which goes to the main floor. It also creates a pool of natural light to illuminate the stairs.
GENIUS!


 Courtesy of picasaweb.google.com
The Robie House represented  many "Firsts" in architectural design,
but one of the most important was the
OPEN FLOOR PLAN
Consider this.
Before Wright conceived this design,
there was no such thing as a floor plan with continuous, free-flowing space.
Rooms were specific and divided.
Wright had a different idea!
What you see above is a view of the living room looking towards the dining room,
(Notice the cut-out above the fireplace, which allows more light into both areas)
The two spaces, which run the length of the house, equal 60' total!



Courtesy of Google Images
Walk around the fireplace and you enter the dining room,
which incorporates the same design elements as the living room, such as the globe lighting,

What is facinating to me is the way Wright created a
"room within a room"
for a more intimate dining experience.
By placing electrified built-in lamps on each corner of the dining table
and chairs with exaggerated backs,
 he created the illusion of a walled-off area, within the open floor plan.

The Robie House has survived several attempts to have it demolished.  Over the years
it's served as a personal residence, dormitory and dining hall, and a developer's office.
Hard to believe, but it wasn't until 1997 that this treasure was
handed over to the Frank Lloyd Wright  Preservation Trust,
who is overseeing the on-going restoration.

Next time I visit, I look forward to seeing more of the original furnishings
returned to their proper place!
But in spite of the sparse interiors, this house tour seemed
complete to me.
Maybe it was the absence of the furnishings that allowed the true spirit of
his genius to come through.

Courtesy of articles.latimes.com


"EMBRACE THE JOYS OF GOOD DESIGN!"
















2 comments:

  1. Thanks Joan -- that was fun to see and your description was wonderful. I love Frank Lloyd Wright and have never seen that building. Can't wait to see your design at the Bellarmine show house too. (Although I did see it in the paper). Thanks!

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  2. Laura - I guess my passion for Frank Lloyd Wright came through! It seemed so effortless to write about this architectural treasure. I found it hard to edit it down with so much great content to choose from. Thanks for your comments. I look forward to seeing you at the Show House!

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