Very Tiny Voyage: Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, Oak Park, IL

Mom-in-chief Julie Podulka decided that, for Mother’s Day, she wanted to tour the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio out in Oak Park, the first suburb west of Chicago, nicely equidistant from her house and mine. I managed to screw everything up by a) arriving on the wrong day and b) when I returned on the right day, forgetting my phone and camera. But I still bring you this report (sans pictorial evidence) from the tour.

There are two tours you can do: the guided interior tour of the Home and Studio, and a self-guided audio walking tour of the private homes that Wright designed in the area. We did the combo. The guided interior tour isn’t to be missed, because this is your chance to see Wright’s real genius–his “total architecture,” which encompasses both the bones of the building and every detail of the interior design. Plus you get the background on his architectural philosophy and innovations from well-educated guides who are happy to answer your questions (although they don’t let you dilly-dally–these are small groups in a small space, and we’ve got to stay on schedule).

I’d say you can give the audio tour a pass, though. Just google some information about where Wright’s other nearby buildings are (there are more than a dozen in easy strolling distance, including the Unity Temple) and you’ll probably get almost as much out of it. There was nothing wrong with the audio guide, but it probably wasn’t worth an extra ten dollars.

I’m a fan of Wright’s aesthetic generally, but what was most fascinating to me on this tour was noticing similarities between what he created in his Prairie style and what I’ve seen in the Islamic architecture of Turkey, Spain, and Morocco. There are overlaps in the geometrical patterns, the careful use of light, and the incorporation of natural elements. It struck me that there must be something inherently human about these things, something very soothing, for people in such different times and places to keep returning to those themes. Next time you’re in Oak Park, I’d recommend experiencing it for yourself.

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