What I Saw: Frank Lloyd Wright in Chicago and Oak Park, Illinois

As you may have recalled from my previous post on my summer architecture-peeping trip celebrating the 150th birthday of Frank Lloyd Wright, the first stop on this multi-city adventure was Chicago. Renown for its excellent architecture, public art and museums, Chicago not only witnessed the development of the skyscraper as a work of art, but also the birth of the Prairie Style—what is now referred to as the first American style of architecture. In preparation for my trip, I purchased tickets to tour Frank Lloyd Wright’s Frederick C. Robie House, Unity Temple as well as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home and Studio, well in advance and brushed up on my FLW reading in the days prior to the trip.

Before immersing myself in Wright’s architecture in Oak Park and River Forest, I ventured to the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago—more specifically, the South Side and the campus of the University of Chicago to visit the Frederick C. Robie House.

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Considered the masterpiece of the Prairie Style, the Robie House epitomizes the perfect marriage of site and structure. Here, as well as in much of Wright’s work, the architecture and the landscape are in a harmonious relationship with one another. With a strong emphasis on horizontality, flat roof with massive overhanging eaves, long stretches of art glass windows and exquisite use of materials throughout the interior and exterior, the Robie House best expresses the ideas Wright would later exploit at Falling Water in Mill Run, Pennsylvania.

The furniture, lighting fixtures and carpets at the Robie House were all designed by Wright. However, much of the original furniture that once belonged to the Robies, is now part of the collection of the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago—just a short ten-minute walk from the Robie House and well worth a visit.

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My next two days in Chicago were spent exploring the suburbs of Oak Park and River Forest, two places known for having the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings anywhere in the country.

Located just nine miles west of downtown Chicago, the village of Oak Park is the perfect destination to see twenty-seven buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, including Unity Temple and the architect’s Home and Studio which serves as the point of departure for all of Wright’s work in Oak Park.

Unity Temple, 1904 Oak Park (9)

My first stop in Oak Park was Unity Temple—a Unitarian Universalist church designed and completed between 1905-1908. Widely considered the first work of modern architecture, Unity Temple recently opened to the public after a multi-year, multi-million dollar restoration. Unity Temple is the embodiment of the spiritual, a building so stunning it’s difficult not to be moved by its beauty and grace—whether you’re a religious person or not.

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On my way to the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, I stopped by the Oak Park Visitor Center to pick up an architectural guide to Oak Park and River Forest. The map highlights all of Wright’s buildings in these two villages, as well as other works by notable architects including a handful of Prairie School architects whose work may even fool the most knowledgeable of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture. It’s definitely worth the $4 it costs, but if you are looking for something more substantial and detailed, I highly recommend William Allin Storrer’s The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright: A Complete Catalog.

Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, 1889 Oak Park (1)

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home and Studio, which he designed at age 21, is very much a Victorian design in the Shingle Style and highly influenced by his former employer Louis Sullivan. Wright’s love for nature, Japanese woodblock prints are all present in this house in Oak Park. The tour of Wright’s Home and Studio is excellent and if you have time to visit one building in Oak Park, I would suggest you start with Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home and Studio and see where it all began.

Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, 1889 Oak Park (12)Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, 1889 Oak Park (2)Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, 1889 Oak Park (3)Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, 1889 Oak Park (4)Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, 1889 Oak Park (5)Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, 1889 Oak Park (6)Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, 1889 Oak Park (7)Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, 1889 Oak Park (8)Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, 1889 Oak Park (9)Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, 1889 Oak Park (10)Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, 1889 Oak Park (11)

The following are the rest of the houses by Frank Lloyd I saw in Oak Park.

Thomas H. Gale House, 1892

Thomas H. Gale House, 1892, Oak Park (2)Thomas H. Gale House, 1892, Oak Park (1)

Robert P. Parker House, 1892

Robert P. Parker House, 1892 Oak Park (1)Robert P. Parker House, 1892 Oak Park (3)

Walter Gale House, 1892

Walter H. Gale House, 1892 Oak Park (3)Walter H. Gale House, 1892 Oak Park (1)Walter H. Gale House, 1892 Oak Park (2)

Charles E. Roberts House, 1879-1896

Charles E. Roberts, 1879-1896, Oak Park (1)Charles E. Roberts, 1879-1896, Oak Park (2)

Charles Roberts Stable, 1896

Charles Roberts Stable, 1896, Oak Park

Francis J. Woolley House, 1893

Francis J. Woolley House, 1893 Oak Park (2)Francis J. Woolley House, 1893 Oak Park (1)

Harry C. Goodrich House, 1895

Harry C. Goodrich Residence, 1896 (2)Harry C. Goodrich Residence, 1896 (1)

Nathan G. Moore House, 1895

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Francisco Terrace, 1895. Built for Edward Carson Waller, the Francisco Terrace apartments were once located in Chicago, however they were demolished in 1974. This arch entryway, part of the original Francisco Terrace, was incorporated into an apartment complex in Oak Park.

Francisco Terrace, 1895 Oak Park

Rollin Furbeck House, 1897

Rollin Furbeck House, 1897, Oak Park (1)Rollin Furbeck House, 1897, Oak Park (2)

George W. Furbeck House, 1897

George W. Furbeck House, 1897

Edward R. Hills Decaro House, 1906, 1977


Edward R. Hills Decaro House, 1906, 1977 Oak Park (2)

William G. Fricke House, 1901

William G. Fricke House, 1901, Oak Park (3)William G. Fricke House, 1901, Oak Park (2)William G. Fricke House, 1901, Oak Park (1)

William E. Martin House, 1903

William E. Martin House, 1903, Oak Park (1)

William E. Martin House, 1903, Oak Park (2)

Frank W. Thomas House, 1901

Frank W. Thomas House, 1901, Oak Park (2)Frank W. Thomas House, 1901, Oak Park (1)

Arthur and Grace Heurtley House, 1902

Arthur and Grace Heurtley House, 1902 Oak Park (1)

Arthur and Grace Heurtley House, 1902 Oak Park (2)

Arthur and Grace Heurtley House, 1902 Oak Park (3)

Mrs. Thomas Gale House, 1903

Mrs. Thomas Gale House, 1909 Oak Park

Edwin H. Cheney House, 1903

On my next post, I’ll highlight the work of Frank Lloyd Wright in River Forest before wrapping up my recap with a final post on Wright’s work in Buffalo. Stay tuned!

Falling in Love with Buffalo, All Over Again

Is it possible to fall in love with a city more than you already are? The City of Buffalo, New York had been on my mind constantly for the past few years, but even more so after reading Alexandra Lange’s essay “A Buffalo Case Study: Can Architecture Bring a City Back?” Years ago, when I was looking at colleges, I stopped briefly in Buffalo, but didn’t pay much attention to my surroundings—yet the city stuck with me for reasons I would come to discover on a recent trip.

Reading about Buffalo and the celebrations planned across the country to mark the 150th birthday of Frank Lloyd Wright, made me want to jump on the #FLW150 bandwagon and plan a trip to both Chicago and Buffalo—and so I did. I wanted to not only see Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture, but to experience great architecture in general, something both of these cities know a thing or two about.

When I told people I was headed to Buffalo for the second leg of my trip, much of the reaction I got was what I had expected. Most people paused, a few shrugged and all proceeded to ask “Why would you go to Buffalo? What’s there?” What most of these people didn’t know then (now they do thanks to my enthusiasm for the city) is that Buffalo is one of the most architecturally significant cities in the country. With buildings and sites designed by almost every major architect practicing in the 19th and 20th centuries, Buffalo should be on every architecture buff’s list. It is one of those places that everyone needs to experience at least once in their lifetime.

With a roster of distinguished architects like Henry Hobson Richardson, Louis Sullivan, Frederick Law Olmsted, Frank Lloyd Wright, Eero and Eliel Saarinen, Gordon Bunshaft, Minoru Yamasaki and Daniel H. Burnham among many, many others, it’s easy to see why Buffalo is considered an architecture paradise. It’s like opening a chapter in an American architecture history textbook, but instead of flipping through pages, all one has to do is walk the city.

Shortly after landing in Buffalo and checking into my AirBnB in Elmwood Village—one of the city’s most architecturally distinct neighborhoods—I grabbed my used, almost-torn copy of Buffalo Architecture: A Guide and hit the ground running. I walked for miles at a time, stopping to look at any building that captured my attention.

I was too in love with Buffalo to think about the pain my knees and feet were in after walking all over Chicago just a few hours prior. I wanted to see all the buildings I had studied in my architectural history courses in college and recall that feeling of falling in love with a city that has undergone so many changes (and more underway).

I strolled down Delaware Avenue, a National Historic District lined with phenomenal Gilded Age mansions that reflect a time when Buffalo had more millionaires per capita than any other city in the country—and wow, what gorgeous mansions there are in Buffalo! Mansions designed by the illustrious firm of McKim, Mead & White and Charles Pierpont M. Gilbert among others, are all found on Delaware Avenue. (Porter Avenue also has some outstanding houses that you should see) I stopped to look at one of the city’s most dramatic buildings, Max Abramovitz’s Temple Beth Zion, a concrete building with scalloping walls completed in 1967. This striking modern building features windows by Ben Shahn, which I unfortunately did not get to see.

Temple Beth Zion (3)Temple Beth Zion (2)

After drooling at the work of Max Abramovitz’s at Temple Beth Zion, I walked toward downtown, admiring along the way the early twentieth century commercial buildings on Main Street. I stopped to marvel at Minoru Yamasaki’s elegant M&T Bank Building with Harry Bertoia’s fountain in the plaza. I continued walking until I arrived at Louis Sullivan’s profusely ornamented Guaranty Building, one of Buffalo’s most exquisite architectural gems—a masterpiece of American architecture. On Fridays, the nonprofit organization Preservation Buffalo Niagara leads tours of the building, but if you are unable to make it to one of these, there’s a small exhibit in the lobby that interprets the building and places it nicely in context to the architecture of its time. Tour or not, go inside the lobby and stare at every single detail, from floor to ceiling—it’s a life-changing experience.

Guaranty Building (1)

Guaranty Building (2)

Another building in Buffalo worth your time is the Kleinhans Music Hall by Eero and Eliel Saarinen. Located in the Allentown neighborhood, this swoon-worthy building is as magnificent from the exterior as it is from its interior. A total work of art in the smack middle of one of Buffalo’s most vibrant residential neighborhoods.


Allentown Neighborhood Buffalo (2)Allentown Neighborhood Buffalo (3)Allentown Neighborhood Buffalo (1)

Of course, Buffalo also has a decent collection of buildings by Frank Lloyd Wright including the most impressive house I’ve seen to date on the East Coast—the Darwin Martin Complex. A multimillion dollar restoration has just been completed (and more preservation work is underway) of the Martin Complex which consists of the Martin House, the Barton House, a Carriage House, the Gardener’s Cottage, the Conservatory and Pergola.

My trip to Buffalo also took me to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery where the art on display is just as wonderful as Gordon Bunshaft’s incredibly elegant 1962 addition to the Greek Revival building by Green and Wicks. As most of us know, the Albright-Knox has been in the news lately and not for good reasons since a partial demolition of Bunshaft’s addition is being proposed by the gallery. Already iconic even without having been built, Gordon Bunshaft’s sleek “black box” beautifully looks onto Green and Wick’s building from 1900-1905. It is graceful and deserves much more respect than what it is being given by the Albright-Knox.

Green and Wicks Albright Knox Gallery

As I walked out of the Albright-Kox, I spotted the eerie towers of Henry Hobson Richardson’s Buffalo State Hospital—one of the architect’s largest works completed in collaboration with Frederick Law Olmsted who designed the landscape.

I wanted to experience the city through the eyes of the many architects, planners and landscape architects that left their legacy in Buffalo. With that in mind, I hopped on two buses and headed to Forest Lawn Cemetery in the northwest part of the city to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s Blue Sky Mausoleum.

Founded in 1849, Forest Lawn Cemetery is designed as a rural cemetery in the tradition of Cambridge’s Mount Auburn Cemetery (1831). And as with many of the cemeteries built around this time, Forest Lawn is also a cultural institution with a robust program of lectures and tours that highlight the monuments and sculptures in its grounds, some of which were designed by well-known architects and artists such as Richard Upjohn, Stanford White and Harriet Whitney Frismuth.

Forest Lawn Cemetery (1)

Forest Lawn Cemetery

Forest Lawn Cemetery (2)

Nestled among the grand Victorian houses of Elmwood Village is this contemporaneous design by Adam Sokol Architecture Practice. Dubbed “The Birdhouse,” this project simultaneously announces a departure of what’s already in Buffalo as well the arrival of what’s to come to this great city. Completed between 2006-2011, The Birdhouse is a bold addition to this colorful neighborhood.

Adam Sokol The Birdhouse Elmwood Village

But what about Brutalist architecture, you ask? Oh, there are some fine examples of the Heroic style in Buffalo, including the Buffalo City Court constructed between 1971-74 and designed by the Buffalo firm of Pfohl, Roberts and Biggie. Massive, windowless and according to my guidebook, designed to “protect the courtrooms and judges’ chambers from outside distractions,” the Buffalo City Court is one of a handful of brutalist buildings in downtown Buffalo that are worth admiring, I certainly did.

Buffalo City Hall (2)

If Brutalism isn’t your thing, but Art Deco is, Buffalo is home to many Art Deco buildings, but none more spectacular than Dietel and Wade’s Buffalo masterpiece, The Buffalo City Hall—a mammoth of a building with 32 floors of Art Deco gloriousness. Walk around it, go inside and stare at all the details that embellish every square inch of one of the city’s grandest buildings.

Buffalo City Hall (3)

Buffalo City Hall (1)

Buffalo City Hall Floor

I came to Buffalo in search of the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, but left with so much more love for a city that is continually reinventing itself. The city is undergoing a renaissance thanks in part to the resiliency of its people and of course, for its great architecture. There’s just so much to love about Buffalo that I’ve barely begun to scratch the surface when it comes to exploring its built environment. I hope to be back soon and see all of its magnificent church interiors, something I did not get to do this time around.

Shameless plug, but if you want to see more  of Buffalo’s architecture, head over to my Instagram and take a gander, I’ll be posting more photos as the weeks go by.

Finally, the Challenge Has Been Accepted. 16 Boston-area Museums Swap Instagram Accounts for One Day.


This past February, I blogged about 18 New York City museums who swapped Instagram accounts for one day with the goal of not only highlighting each other’s collection and architecture, but also introducing another institution to their audience—all this while having fun. In that same blog post, I wondered what it would be like if Boston-area museums organized their own #museuminstaswap and showed their social media followers that museums in Boston can also have fun.

Boston museums have come a long way since publishing that post. Historic New England began to embrace Instagram as a tool with which they can engage with an audience unfamiliar with their house museums. On a similar note, the Museum of Fine Arts has not only stepped up their Twitter game, but has even gone as far as inviting guest Instagrammers to take over their account for special events and openings, adding someone else’s perspective of the museum and its patrons.

This is great and all, but the best news for Gardner Museum lovers came in March when I wrote about the Museum’s newly enacted, but very confusing photo policy. I urged the Gardner Museum to clarify their policy for the sake of their visitors’ experience and to my surprise (and many of my followers on social media), in less than a week after publishing the post, the Gardner Museum rewrote their photography policy and began allowing photos throughout the museum.

While Boston-area museums were continuing to engage with their followers on social media, it wasn’t until June when 12 Los Angeles museums switched Instagram accounts that I lovingly reminded Boston museums that a #museuminstaswap needed to happen.


And then it all began to take shape.



On Thursday December 1st, 16 museums in the Boston area have swapped Instagram accounts for one day to share the collections, stories and make connections from the North Shore to the South Shore, from the eastern to western part of the Commonwealth. And here we are.

In the Boston iteration of #museuminstaswap, the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston has taken over the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum, The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum will be Instagramming on behalf of the Boston Children’s Museum (this is perfect in so many ways) and the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem with will take over the MIT Museum. Other swaps include Historic New England with the Harvard Art Museums which will in turn take over the USS Constitution Museum in Charlestown.

Show us what you got, Boston. Follow along #MuseumInstaSwap and #BostonInstaSwap on Instagram.

On Instagram: Touring Saint Ronan Modern in New Haven Plus Other Buildings Not on The Tour

This past weekend I hopped on a train to New Haven, Connecticut to join the New Haven Preservation Trust, New Haven Modern (which is an initiative of the NHPT) and DoCoMoMo-US on a tour of the modern architecture of the Prospect Hill Historic District in New Haven. Largely characterized for its outstanding examples of Queen Anne, Shingle Style, Colonial Revival, Italian Renaissance Revival, French Renaissance Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival style houses, the Saint Ronan/Edgehill Neighborhood is also home to a handful of mid-century modern infill houses.

Led by architectural historians Chris Wrigen and Charlotte Hitchcock, the tour was loosely based around the theme of fitting modernism into an existing neighborhood like Saint Ronan/Edgehill.

Organized as part of DoCoMoMo’s Tour Day—the annual initiative designed to raise public awareness for mid-century modern buildings and landscapes in the United States—the Saint Ronan Modern tour attracted more than 50 people and included more than 30 buildings, the bulk of which were buildings of the modern movement.

The tour started at the Bethesda Lutheran Church on Saint Ronan Street and concluded on Canner Street with the 1950s Yale Divinity School apartments and a Post-Modern house  designed in 1986 by Peter Tagiuri.

The Bethesda Lutheran Church was designed by the Office of Douglas Orr in 1955-1958. The architect was H. Dillingham Palmer and the church is designed in a “Scandinavian Modern” style with red bricks, light-colored wood and an A-shape roof that suggests Gothic architecture. According to the tour guides, Orr was not a fan of the modern architecture of the time, so he relegated certain commissions to other designers in the firm. The Bethesda Lutheran Church was one of those commissions.



For some context to the modern houses we were about to see, the tour guides stopped at several houses on Saint Ronan Street, including the Adolph Mendel House designed in 1913 by R. W. Foote (illustrated below) and the J. Edward Heaton House designed in 1903 by Leoni W. Robinson.


After this brief stop, we walked over to Autumn Street to look at four houses designed between 1905 and 1967. Parallel to Saint Ronan Street, Autumn Street is home to several mid-century modern homes built as infill on subdivided parcels.

The first stop on Autumn Street was the J. Edward Heaton Carriage House built around 1905 and renovated and expanded in the 1960s by the office of E. Carleton Granbery. A former barn converted to a residence, the house features a lush courtyard connecting the interior with the exterior, epitomizing what the tour guides referred to as “California-living” style.


The Mrs. E.H. Tuttle House designed in 1956 by E. Carleton Granbery also in the “Californian living” style.


50 Autumn Street is home to the Dr. Jose Delgado House designed in 1959 by Gualtier & Johnson and expanded in 1988 by Edward Kubler.


One of my favorite buildings on the tour was the Stanley and Margaret Leavy House at 70 Autumn Street. Designed in 1967 by Granbery, Cash & Associates, the house has become the poster child for Saint Ronan Modern. While setback from the street, it is impossible to miss this bold, stunning house in an otherwise architecturally quiet street.


On Edgehill Road is the Robert and Judith Evenson House designed in 1979 by Peter Kosinski/Kosinski Architecture. The house is built on the site of the former St. Francis Orphan Asylum, demolished in 1963.

After the Evenson House, we headed to Loomis Place to look at several buildings that form part of the Foote School. Among the architects whose buildings form part of the Foote School include Perkins & Will (with E. Carleton Granbery), David Cochran & Miller, Roth & More as well as Maryann Thompson Architects.


One of the more striking houses on the tour was the John and Ruth Martin House at 55 Loomis Place. Designed in 1967 by Sidney T. Miller, the house is a two-story frame house with features that recall Prairie Style houses of Frank Lloyd Wright. Unfortunately, there’s is very little out there on the architecture of Sidney T. Miller, but from what I have been able to see, his work deserves a second look.


Finally, the tour concluded on Canner Street with the 1950s Yale Divinity School apartments designed by the office of Douglas Orr. In contrast to the Divinity School apartments which stands out from its neighbors, the Post-modern house on the next block over on Canner Street was designed in 1986 by Peter Tagiuri and fits in perfectly with its surroundings.



After the tour, I decided to explore two more buildings on my own: The First Presbyterian Church designed in 1966 by John Dinkeloo and expanded in 2005 by Christiaan Dinkeloo (son of John Dinkeloo) and finally, the Whitney Avenue Fire Station designed in 1962 by the firm of Carlin, Pozzi & Millard.



New Haven was a hotbed for modernism and within Yale University you’ll find many buildings designed by some of the leading architects of the time. I took some time to revisit some old friends I hadn’t seen in a few years.

Phillip Johnson and Associates’ Kline Biology Tower, 1964.


Ingalls Hockey Rink, 1957, Eero Saarinen



Marcel Breuer’s Becton Engineering and Applied Science Center (now known as the Becton Center for Engineering Innovation & Design), 1968.


Interior of the Yale University Art Gallery, 1953, Louis I. Kahn.


Paul Rudolph’s Art and Architecture Building (Yale School of Architecture), 1961.


Gordon Bunshaft’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, 1961.



The Community Services Building (now known as the Knights of Columbus Museum), Douglas Orr, deCossy, Winder and Associates, 1965.


For more of the architecture seen on the Saint Ronan Modern tour, head over to my Instagram where you’ll find photos of the entire itinerary (some included here).