There is arguably no better place to live than Chicagoland when Frank Lloyd Wright is your favorite architect. Luckily for me, I grew up in the Windy City’s western suburbs, less than an hour away from the highest number of residences and buildings designed by Wright worldwide, such as Unity Temple and his Oak Park Home and Studio. Now, as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, I have the joy of being within walking distance of one of the most famous residences in America: the Robie House, located right at the corner of Woodlawn Avenue and 58th Street.
Although seemingly out of place on UChicago’s campus, the Robie House is not only an important symbol in architecture, but also pays homage to Midwestern history. Currently a museum, it’s been a U.S. National Historic Landmark since October 15, 1966. Completed in 1910 for Frederick C. Robie, this unique brick residence exists as the epitome of Wright’s Prairie style of architecture. The Robie House’s height-length ratio reflects the long stretches of the Midwestern plains: the cantilevers, compressed yet long bricks, and low-hipped roof enhance the property’s horizontal appearance.
One of the many reasons why I love Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural works is because of his commitment to locally-sourced materials. The Robie House is no exception. Built mainly out of Roman brick, wood, and stucco, there is harmony between this iconic residence and the local Illinois landscape. Having grown up treasuring my Illinois roots, I have a special appreciation for the Robie House because it reminds me of the Midwestern plains and landscape unlike anywhere else in the United States, even though the residence is in a physically urban setting.
The Robie House’s interior keeps with the Midwestern theme, featuring natural colors and leaded, stained glass windows. The Robie House’s cantilevers and natural aesthetic encourage the fusion of the outdoors and indoors, a common theme among Wright’s designs. Unlike much other architecture, the Robie House is not imposing on the surrounding environment; instead, it is an extension of the Midwestern prairie landscape, just as Fallingwater in Pennsylvania is an extension of the waterfall upon which it sits.
Many residences in Hyde Park, as well as UChicago’s Collegiate Gothic architecture, are beautiful. However, none of these reflect the agricultural history of Illinois and the Midwest like the Robie House. Both architecturally interesting and historically relevant, the Robie House is not something to overlook. Attending a university with such an iconic structure on campus is a rare joy, and anyone who graduates from UChicago without touring the Robie House is missing out on something truly spectacular.
* The views expressed in this article solely represent the views of the author, not the views of the Chicago Thinker.
Ann Haarlow is a staff writer for the Chicago Thinker. A first-year at the University of Chicago, Ann is interested in studying economics, architectural studies, and Norwegian studies. She is an avid fan of architecture and archaeology, particularly in the Americas. In her free time, Ann enjoys drawing, reading, photography, and exercising.