By Julie Earle-Levine
IT MAY BE A RAINY WEEKDAY IN OAK PARK, a serene, perfectly coiffed suburb almost 18 kilometres west of downtown Chicago, but visitors are undaunted by the steamy showers and grey skies. Toting umbrellas and wearing backpacks, their iPod audio tours are at the ready as they crisscross excitedly from one leafy residential street to the next, snapping photos and marking maps. They have been drawn here, from all over the world, by the houses designed by their hero, Frank Lloyd Wright, the self-described genius of American architecture.
But I had come to
As an Australian living in
Of course, no visitor to
Henry Kuehn, a
What our guide does not tell our group was that the studio, a stunning room with a two-storey octagonal drafting room and natural light that pours from the roof skylight onto half a dozen desks, was the scene of bitter arguments between Wright and
Decorated with Japanese prints and miniature casts of classical sculptures, the studio was an “informal, pleasant place to work” according to H. Allen Brooks, author of The
I wonder how the disagreements had played out in this serene setting. There had reportedly been many, the most spectacular when Wright left
A short stroll from Wright’s Home and Studio on a self-guided walking tour is Wright’s Beachy House (
Kruty also believes Wright was heavily influenced by
Its abstract nature and geometrical shapes stand out in a street of Queen Anne-style houses and apparently, at the time, some of the neighbours hated it.
It is considered to be one of Wright’s most unusual styles here, although there is some debate about whether it was built in 1904 or 1909. “When everyone thought the Gale house was 1904, they would compare it to
Instead of opening his own practice,
Kruty believes neither man knew what he was in for. “
To view one of
“This is the quintessential Walter Burley Griffin house. The biggest and the best he built,” says Kuehn, in awe, as if seeing it for the first time (he has seen it a handful of times, both inside and out).
Our next stop is
The houses that line
Pauline Saliga and her family of four have lived in a
Mati Maldre, who lives in the Jenkinson House (
One wonders what he might have gone on to design had he lived as long as Wright, who died in 1959.
Seventy years on it is a thrill to find that on one street in a