Chicago – Frank Lloyd Wright Edition

4 days spent in Chicago, and sad to say, I wasn’t very impressed. Perhaps it was the freezing temperature, and the time of the year that we were visiting, but Chicago left me with an image of a ghost-city. Impressive architecture and public transportation tower over the Loop, and yet the streets are left empty on a weekday afternoon, and a Saturday evening. The Chicago-ans must be out and about somewhere, even in this weather, and they have successfully eluded us for 4 full days.

Although I failed to see the human life in the city, I was thoroughly impressed with their life of architecture. They have the beautifully ornate interiors by Sullivan,  the minimalistic and pristine black glass boxes at Chicago Federal Center by Mies, the towering structures by SOM that seem to be monopolizing the skyline, and of course the craziness of Frank Gehry at Millenium Park that has most certainly grown on me now that I’ve seen it in person. I was extremely thrilled to see them all. All the big names we learn from history books were all in front of me. Learning the concepts of each Architectural movements must be very hands on in Chicago.

However, the one man who has impressed me most significantly during my stay here was Mr. Frank Lloyd Wright. We visited his Home and Studio in Oak Park, and was stunned. The photographs we see in books simply do not do his buildings justice. (His more notable ones that is… some of his earlier work was HIDEOUS!!) The seemingly simplicity of the design, and the sensibility of space, program, and function was absolutely brilliant.

He designed for the human scale. (Though one of tour guides insinuated that Frank might’ve felt a little disdain for people of height, and decided to design for people on the shorter side – like me 🙂 ) And because this was part of a residential house, all the rooms felt very intimate with design elements such as a lower ceiling, wood furniture,high back chairs that mimics a wall to creates the idea of “a room within a room,” built in furniture to suggest that things are as they should be, among many other things. While the space themselves were limited physically, he tried to open it up visually, to allow light into the room, to allow a visual connection to the outside, an element of his prairie style design. Stretch the house horizontally to be a part of the landscape, allow interaction between the exterior and the interior. Everything he did in here, it was successful.

Then came my favorite part of the building. The Studio. At entry, the studio almost felt like a church. With a hexagonal – domed top, it is seemingly anti-gravity, plus a suspended balcony on a second floor, while the entire space was filled with light from the top down. I expected to see a cross with Jesus somewhere. It was intense. But as I spent more time in the space, I loved it. The structure wasn’t pillars, they were chains. Chains that pulled the hexagonal – dome downward, and kept the walls from being pushed out by the dome. At the same time, they held the balcony up. It was all in plain sight, but it disappeared into the background at first glance.

Frank knew that the space looked too insecure with it being anti-gravitational. He added beams running across the space to imitate structure, while functionally it is a shelf for models, and sculptural pieces. He also designed a mobile shelf that mimics a massive structural column. All giving off the illusion that the space is indeed supported, and stable. How brilliant is that? And it was all done with such elegance that undoubtedly, people liked working in here.

Frank was most definitely a very pompous and egotistical man, but he knew what he was doing when he designed his home and studio, and it shows.

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~ by atsilac on February 1, 2010.

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