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Chicago is one of those cities famous for its skyline and impressive collection of both modern and historic architecture. So it comes as no surprise that one of the world’s most iconic and well-known architects, Frank Lloyd Wright, began his career in the Windy City in the late 19th century—and he certainly left his mark. While his structures don’t necessarily peek out between the city’s many skyscrapers, explore some of the well known neighborhoods noted below and you’ll find that Wright’s designs abound—you’re likely to stumble upon one of his architectural beauties, many of which reflect influences of both a Midwestern landscape and “modern” American life.
Between residential homes, an impressive interior court, and even a temple, Chicago is perhaps the best place to begin familiarizing yourself with this veritable legend. While there are many options for booking a specific Frank Lloyd Wright architecture tour, by bus or by foot—the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust offers a handful—we’ve got the skinny on a handful of stunning designs that you can visit next time you’re exploring his old stomping grounds.
Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio
Built in 1889 in Oak Park, a historic neighborhood in western Chicago, the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio was built by none other than FLW himself. According to the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust, this house and design was a place of experimentation for Wright, and he adjusted and revised his work continually over the years. The home, built in the Shingle style, features bold, geometric shapes—like the prominent triangular gable.
Thomas Gale House
One of Wright’s many “bootleg” projects built while he was working for Chicago architecture firm Adler and Sullivan, the Thomas Gale House is located in Oak Park, as well. The complex shapes of the structure are reminiscent of the British Queen Anne style, but with a nod to Wright’s interest in sophisticated design.
The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust refers to the house that Wright designed for Frederick C. Robie as a “consummate expression of his prairie style,” and a defining moment in the architect’s career. Each element of the house, both inside and out, is meant to be carefully connected; the exterior is noticeably horizontal with elevation across planes, while the interior is filled with light and clean lines—it’s the epitome of a structural masterpiece.
After Chicago’s Unity Church burned down in 1905, Wright was commissioned to rebuild the structure, and it’s since been known as one of his most iconic public spaces. Unsurprisingly, Wright’s design broke many traditional Western architectural conventions, perhaps most notably here, his use of concrete.
Emil Bach House
Built on the north side of Chicago near the edge of Lake Michigan, the Emil Bach House was constructed in 1915 and is known as a more future-oriented design, due to its modern windows, compact nature, and geometric composition.
The Rookery Building Light Court
The Rookery Building—a true landmark of the financial district—was built in 1888 by Daniel Burnham and John Root, who commissioned FLW to remodel the interior light court and lobbies. The commission yielded some of Wright’s most magnificent interior work: a beautiful, airy space with a striking balance between ornamental ironwork, geometry, and light.