Frank Lloyd Wright Trust's Plans for a Modern Welcome

By CGN Staff via PR

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright's signature style is easily identifiable to many around the world, but here close to home the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust announced on June 17 plans for a new state-of-the-art Visitor and Education Center that will serve as a means of welcoming today's architecture fans and visitors. The plans mark a milestone for the organization founded on the same day 45 years ago. The expansion will strengthen the Trust’s relationship to the Oak Park community, deepen its educational impact, increase indoor and outdoor capacity by more than 20,000 sq. ft., and enhance the experience of the 90,000 visitors to the Home and Studio site each year.

Since its founding in 1974, the Trust has become a Chicago-wide organization that has welcomed approximately 5 million visitors to its five sites, located in Chicago and Oak Park. A non-profit community anchor, the Trust has grown to a staff of 50, with over 650 volunteers, and has just completed restoration of the Robie House, Wright’s consummate Prairie masterpiece, to widespread acclaim. Its annual Wright Plus Housewalk is a signature event known around the world.

Architect John Ronan, who also designed Chicago’s Poetry Foundation building, was selected as the architect of the expansion. Other finalists were Krueck + Sexton, Pappageorge Haymes, Perkins + Will and Vinci Hamp Architects. “This is the most important initiative since the Trust’s founding and restoration of the Home and Studio. It will ensure that Wright’s legacy remains vital to future generations. Ronan’s proposal was chosen for its design simplicity, quiet presence within the site, and use of materials referencing the site and surrounding neighborhood,” stated Board Chairman Bob Miller.

The new Visitor Center will be a public arrival point and will consist of a Reception Hall with audio-visual programming, an information and ticketing area, visitor amenities and a shop. A wooded outdoor plaza will extend from the Visitor Center to Chicago Avenue and connect to the historic grounds of the Home and Studio, combining an open grassy lawn with hard surface walkways and terrace areas. The combined Visitor Center and plaza will accommodate an array of special events including lectures, receptions and other community and educational gatherings in partnership with area schools and businesses.

A new Education Center will include a design studio for student and family classes with an area for students’ art display and works by area artists and designers. A conference room with private reception area will be a premier space for educator meetings, academic forums, young leadership summits, seminars, and special-interest group discussions.

A library and center for curatorial research will be adapted from Trust offices, currently housed in an 1860s residence that was the home of Wright’s mother. The Home and Studio garage will become a gallery for the Trust’s permanent collections, enriching the historical and artistic content of tours. “The new Center will be a building of architectural importance set gracefully into the context of a beloved historic site and neighborhood. It is a natural next step into a bright future for Oak Park,” said Celeste Adams, Trust President & CEO.

The plan will be submitted for review to the Village of Oak Park for its consideration of alterations and improvements to the Trust’s property.

About the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust

The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust seeks to engage, educate and inspire the public through interpretation of Frank Lloyd Wright’s design legacy and preservation of his original sites in Chicago. Owner of Wright’s Home and Studio, the Trust operates public tours and programs at five Chicago area historic sites: Wright’s Home and Studio (1889/1898) and Unity Temple (1905-08) in Oak Park; the Frederick C. Robie House (1908-10) located on the campus of University of Chicago in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood; The Rookery Light Court (1905) in the Chicago Loop; and Emil Bach House (1915) in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood.

About John Ronan

Architect of the expansion, John Ronan is founding principal and lead designer of John Ronan Architects established in 1999. A graduate of University of Michigan and Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Ronan is known for his conceptual innovation and concise design approach. He was elected to the American Institute of Architects College of Fellows in 2014. In 2017 he was the recipient of the American Academy of Art and Letters Architecture Award, and his Poetry Foundation building was listed as one of the 125 best buildings of the last 125 years by Architectural Record. His firm has received numerous design awards, including two AIA Institute National Honor Awards. He is currently the John and Jeanne Rowe Endowed Chair Professor of the College of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology.