Early Styles

Prairie Houses

Textile Block Houses

 

Edward R. Hills House, Prairie Style. Oak Park, Illinois.

Photographer: Derek Fell

The Gardens of Frank Lloyd Wright by Derek Fell

 

When Wright founded his practice, house styles were still modeled after old European architecture. Lavish buildings of Gothic Revival, French Empire, and Italianate form were everywhere. When Wright looked at these buildings, derived as they were from the styles of
other countries and other cultures, he saw that they didn’t fit the American landscape. “What was the matter with the kind of house I found on the prairie? Just for a beginning, let’s say that house lied about everything. It had no sense of Unity at all nor any such sense
of space as should belong to a free people. To take any one of those
so-called ‘homes’ away would have improved the landscape and cleared the atmosphere… My first feeling therefore had been a yearning for simplicity.” (Frank Lloyd Wright: An Autobiography). Thus emerged the Prairie-Style home: Characterized by dramatic horizontal lines and masses, the Prairie buildings embody the expansive, flat Midwestern landscape.

“Every great architect is - necessarily - a great poet. He must be a great original interpreter of his time, his day, his age.”

In Frank Lloyd Wright: In the Realm of Ideas, Wright discusses how ugly the materials we traditionally use in construction are. He states, “What about the concrete block? It was the cheapest (and ugliest) thing in the building world. It lived mostly in the architectural gutter as an imitation of rock-faced stone. Why not see what could be done
with that gutter rat? Steel rods cast inside the joints of the blocks themselves and the whole brought into some broad, practical scheme of general treatment, why would it not be fit for a new phase of our modern architecture? It might be permanent, noble beautiful.”
(Frank Lloyd Wright: In the Realm of Ideas).

 

Using the “textile block”, Wright built the Millard House, the Storer House, the Freeman House, and the Ennis House. These buildings were constructed with pre-cast concrete blocks, textile blocks, patterned with elegant and roughly textured surfaces. Each square block was reinforced with a system of metal bars on the inside.

Millard House, Textile Block House. Evanston, Illinois.

Photographer: Alan Weintraub

Frank Lloyd Wright: America’s Master Architect by Kathryn Smith