At Home (Not) on the Prairie: A House for a Chicago Lot

Author(s)

Project Description

This house is an exploration into the domestic architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright.  It recapitulates his spatial language with the intent to clarify, codify, and evaluate his work.  It draws from Wright’s early Prairie Style houses as well as his later Usonian models.  

The house is designed to work as either a single, stand-alone building, or as a pair of houses developed in tandem, as it is shown here.  As a design, it employs three strategies commonly found throughout Wright’s architecture:  the use of a module, overlapping spatial volumes, and a balance of local symmetry within a larger composition of asymmetry.   The plans are based on a 3’8” module, while the elevations use a module of 1’1”.  Together, the modules create a three-dimensional cage into which every point in space is placed.   The plan on the first floor is arranged axially, keeping the stairs and utilities tightly bound in the middle, while allowing the living and dining spaces to extend outwards.   Upstairs, the bedrooms and bathroom form a linear arrangement, with the master bedroom positioned towards the street.  A balcony with planting bed runs alongside the bedrooms, moving the rooms back from the property line and creating space for light as well as privacy.  Construction is kept simple.  The house is built with a platform fame using 2 x 6 studs, 1’10” on center.  Two steel beams, resting on masonry cores, run the length of the house and provide support for the floor joists and cantilevered balconies. 

To my generation of architects, Wright remains elusive and largely ignored as a source of precedent.   However, to follow Wright is to discover a replicable system of design that can be employed in a variety of situations.  Far from nostalgia, the polemic here argues for Wright’s relevance today by constructing a house that lays open to his influence.