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John H. Waters: On the trail of Frank Lloyd Wright in Illinois & Wisconsin

by SAH News | Sep 10, 2019

Andrea Sachs of the Washington Post recently explored UNESCO recognized works of Frank Lloyd Wright with SAH member John H. Waters, of the Frank Llloyd Wright Building Conservancy.

Frank Lloyd Wright died 60 years ago in April yet he still feels present, as if his ghost were consulting architects from the afterlife. The open floor plan concept, use of steel and concrete in non-utilitarian buildings and walls of windows that pull nature close are ubiquitous design elements today — you’re welcome, says Wright from the grave. In July, UNESCO recognized his contribution to modern architecture by adding eight of his buildings to its list of World Heritage sites. Half are in the Midwest, for obvious reasons. The architect spent most of his 70-year career in the Chicago area and Wisconsin, his birthplace. (He died in Arizona, where he wintered.) The Prairie State boasts the highest number of his structures, followed by the Badger State. Combined, the pair claim about 25 sites that are open to the public. Dozens more remain in private hands but can be viewed from the sidewalk or during special open house events, such as the Wright Plus Housewalk in Oak Park, Ill., which the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust holds in May.

To shepherd travelers on their pilgrimages, the Illinois and Wisconsin tourism offices unveiled self-guided trails that connect the Wright dots. (In Wisconsin, hit all nine and earn a collectible mug.) However, between the tours, gift shops and driving distances, you will need significant vacation time to visit all 22 attractions. For an abbreviated road trip, I reached out to John H. Waters at the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy in Chicago. The preservation programs manager and architect helped me craft an itinerary that followed Wright's professional arc from his earliest projects (a windmill for his aunts) to his latest (his home at Taliesin), from Prairie style to Usonian. "His architecture is endlessly fascinating," Waters told me before I set off on my journey. "You keep on learning more about his work the more you delve into it." To be sure, after a dozen Wright creations over six days, I could spot a low-pitched roof and cantilevered ledge from a street away.

Read full article with descriptions and photos here.

John H. Waters has been an SAH member since 2007.  

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