FIVE FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT DESIGNED BUILDINGS TO EXPLORE IN HONOR OF THE ARCHITECT'S 150th BIRTHDAY
By ELIZABETH METCALFE
Most Chicagoans are familiar with the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright due to nearby Oak Park, the suburb in which he lived and worked for 20 years. With the highest concentration of Frank Lloyd Wright designed houses in the world, Oak Park is an architectural mecca. However, a wealth of Wright designed architecture awaits just beyond Chicagoland. Summer is the perfect opportunity for a day trip out to one of the many Wright buildings open to the public.
Monona Terrace (Madison, WI)
Though proposed by Wright in 1938, government bureaucracy halted the construction of this beautiful civic convention center. Wright made several modifications to the design from 1938 until his death in 1959 and project construction finally began in the 1990s. Wright spent much of his childhood in Madison, and Monona Terrace connects two of the city’s landmarks: Lake Monona and the Wisconsin State Capitol. While the exterior of the building is decidedly Wright, the center’s interiors are designed by Taliesin architect Tony Puttnam.
John Nolen Dr., Madison, WI, mononaterrace.com, 608-261-4000
Dana-Thomas House (Springfield, IL)
Visiting the state’s capital? Why not swing by Frank Lloyd Wright’s impressive Dana-Thomas House? Built from 1902-1904, the Dana-Thomas House boasts 35 rooms and an abundance of art glass windows. Don’t miss the Wright-designed bowling alley in the basement or the Japanese-inspired interior Torii gate, which connects the home to the Lawrence Memorial Library.
300 E. Lawrence Ave., Springfield, IL, dana-thomas.org, 217-782-6776
Meyer May House (Grand Rapids, MI)
Beautifully restored with funds from Steelcase Inc., the Meyer May House will likely remind Chicagoans of the Robie House, one of Wright’s most famous Prairie Style buildings. Though designed in the same year and similar in style to the Robie House, the Meyer May House is distinctive due to its T-shaped plan, tan brick, and hollyhock partition wall mural by interior architect George Mann Niedecken.
450 Madison Avenue SE, Grand Rapids, MI, meyermayhouse.steelcase.com, 616-246-4821
Wingspread (Racine, WI)
Wright’s famous S.C. Johnson Wax Headquarters may be nearby and is definitely worth a visit, but don’t leave the Racine area without visiting Wright’s lesser known but equally innovative Wingspread. Wright designed this mansion for Herbert Fisk Johnson Jr., the president of S.C. Johnson, in the late 1930s. From above, the house resembles a pinwheel, with a central core uniting four wings of the house. One wing houses a “Romeo and Juliet” style cantilevered balcony and a unique “crow’s nest” lookout sits atop the house.
33 E. 4 Mile Rd, Racine, WI, johnsonfdn.com, 262-639-3211
Unity Temple (Oak Park, IL)
Though many Chicagoans have likely been inside Wright’s iconic Unitarian Universalist church before, the structure is currently undergoing a massive restoration project. Overseen by Harboe Architects, the firm also responsible for restoring the Rookery Building in downtown Chicago, the restoration of Unity Temple is expected to be complete this summer. After being closed for nearly two years, the Unity Temple will surely delight new and old guests alike with its fully restored art glass windows, lighting fixtures, paint finishes, and oak trim.
875 Lake St, Oak Park, utrf.org, 708-383-8873
Top image: Exterior view of Monoma Terrace in Madison, Wisconsin. Courtesy of Monoma Terrace Community & Convention Center