Prairie style homes, with their distinctive low-pitched roofs, horizontal lines, and integration with the surrounding landscape, hold significant historical and architectural value. Developed by renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright, these homes emerged as a response to the changing American lifestyle and an expression of the Midwest’s expansive prairies.
In this post, I’ll dive into the historical significance, explore their unique history, and highlight the architectural details that make Prairie style homes so very cool.
History of the Prairie Style
Prairie style architecture gained prominence around 1900 and only lasted until around 1915. It reflects a major departure from traditional architectural norms prevalent during that era like the Queen Anne and Folk Victorian styles, embracing a strikingly modern approach that had never been tried architecturally.
Conceived in Chicago from the work of a group of young architects, including Frank Lloyd Wright, often hailed as the pioneer of Prairie style architecture, they introduced this distinctive design language based on the ideas becoming popular in the Arts and Crafts movement of the time.
Wright envisioned homes that harmonized with the vast prairie landscapes of the American Midwest and seamlessly blended natural building elements so as to harmonize with the landscape. His iconic Prairie style homes emphasized horizontal lines, long, low-pitched roofs, and an open floor plan (the first time this ever showed up in residential architecture) that connected interior spaces seamlessly.
The movement emerged as a response to the Industrial Revolution and the desire to create a unique American architectural identity. Prairie style homes embodied the democratic ideals of simplicity, functionality, and integration which it shared with American Bungalow style that rose to prominence around the same time.
Horizontal Emphasis: Prairie style homes feature strong horizontal lines, reflecting the vastness of the prairie landscape. These lines are often highlighted through long, low-pitched and often roofs, broad eaves, and bands of windows that stretch across the facade.
Integration with Nature: Wright believed in blurring the boundaries between the interior and exterior. Prairie style homes achieve this through expansive use of windows, allowing natural light to flood the interior while offering stunning views of the surrounding landscape. Additionally, many Prairie style homes incorporate covered porches and terraces, further connecting inhabitants with nature and blurring the line between the two.
Organic Materials: Natural materials such as wood, stone, and brick are prevalent in Prairie style architecture. These materials evoke a sense of harmony with the environment and provide a warm and inviting aesthetic. Exposed structural elements, such as decorative beams and rafters, add character to the homes.
Open Floor Plans: Prairie style homes typically feature open floor plans, creating a sense of spaciousness and flow. Rooms are interconnected, often organized around a central fireplace or core. This design encourages a seamless transition between living, dining, and kitchen spaces, promoting a sense of togetherness and functionality.
Lack of Ornamentation: Unlike the ornamentation of previous styles the Prairie style stripped its buildings of almost all unnecessary elements, preferring sleek smooth lines to the gingerbread and scroll work of the past. This stripped down look was taken ever further in succeeding Modern and Butralist architectural styles that would follow.
Prairie style homes stand as a testament to Frank Lloyd Wright’s innovative vision and the unique architectural movement he initiated. With their refusal to borrow from historical Roman and Greek architecture unlike the rest of contemporary architecture of the time Prairie style architectures succeeded in creating something unique.
Top 5 Prairie Style Homes
Built in 1909 and designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in Chicago, IL stands out for its unique architectural details, such as its low-pitched roof, long cantilevered eaves, and expansive bands of art glass windows that allow natural light to permeate the interior. The house’s horizontal orientation, brick and limestone construction, and harmonious integration with the surrounding landscape make it a masterpiece of organic architecture, seamlessly blending with its environment. The Robie House remains an iconic example of Wright’s visionary approach to design, challenging traditional notions of domestic architecture and setting new standards for modern living.
Built in 1904 and designed by Frank Lloyd Wright is an architectural gem in Springfield, Illinois. Built for socialite Susan Lawrence Dana, the house stands out for its exceptional level of craftsmanship and intricate design details. One of the most distinctive features is the elaborate art glass windows, designed by Wright in collaboration with the renowned glass artist Louis Comfort Tiffany. These windows, along with the exquisite woodwork and custom-designed furniture, create a harmonious fusion of art and architecture.
Emil Bach House
Built in 1915 and designed by Frank Lloyd Wright is a hidden gem tucked away in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. The Emil Bach House stands out for its unique and innovative design elements, such as the cantilevered balcony that extends from the second floor, providing an uninterrupted connection to nature. The house’s distinctive exterior features contrasting patterns of brick and stucco, while the interior boasts beautiful woodwork and built-in furniture, showcasing Wright’s meticulous attention to detail. The Emil Bach House exemplifies Wright’s philosophy of “organic architecture,” harmoniously blending with its environment and offering a serene and functional living space.
Built in 1938 and designed by Frank Lloyd Wright is an architectural masterpiece located in rural southwestern Pennsylvania. More than 20 years after the Prairie style faded from popularity Wright took the style to its pinnacle with his design of Fallingwater. The house was built over a waterfall, with cantilevered balconies and terraces extending from the structure, providing breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. The innovative use of reinforced concrete and stone creates a sense of weightlessness, as if the house is floating above the water. Inside, the open floor plan seamlessly connects interior and exterior spaces, blurring the boundaries between the natural and built environments. Fallingwater’s harmonious relationship with its surroundings, combined with its daring structural design, has made it one of the most famous and influential residential buildings in the world, embodying Wright’s vision of organic architecture in perfect harmony with nature.
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I love old houses, working with my hands, and teaching others the excitment of doing it yourself! Everything is teachable if you only give it the chance.