Frank Lloyd Wright Robbie House

Frank Lloyd Wright Robbie House

A Prairie house is low and angular, often with the leaded glass and stone trim associated with Arts and Crafts design. On the University of Chicago campus in the city’s Hyde Park neighborhood, you can find Wright’s most famous Prairie home, the Frederick C. Robie House (1910).

The Robie House occupies a corner in a residential area with other similarly stately houses from the 19th and early 20th centuries, so the home didn’t stick out as we imagined it might. Still, there was nothing like it around. Designed for an entrepreneur, his wife and their two small children, the 9,000-square-foot, three-story building rises from the earth in red-brick-and-limestone slabs like a sheet cake that wants to be a ziggurat.

The horizontal thrust is relentless: Windows are ribbons of decorative glass set under blade-thin steel-supported canopies that cantilever as far as 18 feet from walls.

The main entrance, off to the side, is one of Wright’s typical cramped, unobtrusive doorways that make you wonder if you’re following in the milkman’s footsteps. This impression is only underlined by the unexpectedly shabby and sparsely furnished entry room and nearby playroom and billiard room. Owned by the University of Chicago, the building is managed by the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust, which, having restored the exterior, is returning the interiors to their 1910 condition. The project has no completion date, but the house remains open to the public and can be rented for events.


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