Wright, Frank Lloyd

Larkin Building

Added by Harrison Blair, last update: August 17, 2012, 1:22 pm

Larkin Building
Location
680 Seneca Street
Buffalo, NY 14210
United States
42° 52' 36.318" N, 78° 51' 5.526" W
Identity of Building / Site
Primary classification: Commercial (COM)
Secondary classification:
Federal, State, or Local Designation(s) and Date(s):
History of Building/Site
Original Brief:

The Larkin Company was a soap manufacturing company which grew to include a mail-order business with branch offices in Pittsburgh, Boston, Philadelphia, and Peoria. The company produced a variety of soaps, perfumes, powders, and other household goods, and purchased and distributed a number of other household products. The existing office spaces proved to be inadequate. The lighting was uneven, some spaces had been occupied by soap vats and tended to be dirty and noisy, and were hot in the summer. They were also too small to house the necessary administrative operations of the growing business. Frank Lloyd Wright’s building was expected to accommodate the needs of executives, department heads, and systematic mail-handling and filing, in a closely joined workplace. (1)

Sept. 11, 1902: Darwin D. Martin, an influential Larkin executive, visits his brother in Chicago and sees Wright’s work in suburban Oak Park. He soon writes that Wright “makes $8,000 look like $15,000 in a house.” (2)

Nov. 18. 1902: Wright arrives in Buffalo from Chicago for a first meeting with Martin. (3)

Jan 15, 1903: Preliminary sketches are created for the Larkin company. (4)

Apr 4, 1904: Construction drawings are produced and dated. (5)

Aug 1906: Building is ready for occupancy. (6)

Dates: Commission / Completion:1903/1906
Architectural and other Designer(s): Frank Lloyd Wright, architect. Richard W. Bock, sculptor.
Others associated with Building/Site: Darwin D. Martin. John Larkin.
Significant Alteration(s) with Date(s): 1909: A Kroeschell refrigeration unit is added to Wright’s original air treatment system, which cleans the surrounding polluted air with a limited control of humidity. (7) 1932: Windows had been cut into the walls of the fifth floor. The annex chimney has been extended above the roof line. (8) Oct. 4, 1939: The Larkin Company announced in a press release that the Larkin Retail Store will be relocated across the street in the building, which has 25% more floor space than its existing location. The building was renovated: Interior court was cleared of the Wright-designed metal desks. The floors were carpeted, an organ console and grand piano are introduced into the space. Glareless floodlights were placed on the fifth floor. Interior windows were contained by the main floor—drapes and curtains are displayed against a pastel background that was backlit to simulate sunlight. Full-length mirrors were installed and walls are repainted. The area surrounding the central court was partitioned to make three model rooms for display. The second floor was also partitioned to make three model display rooms. The second and third floors were used to hold merchandize. Fourth and fifth floors are retained as office space for the mail-order branch. Ten of the double-paned windows that face the parking lot were transformed into display windows. (9) Nov. 20, 1939: Renovated building was reopened as the Larkin Retail Store. (10) 1941: Original decorative globes designed by Richard W. Brock have been removed from central exterior piers, possibly due to structural problems caused by their weight. (11) May 24, 1943: It was announced that building was sold to L.B. Smith, a Harrisburg, PA contractor. Nine months remain on Larkin Company (now the Larkin Store Corporation) lease. No further action was taken upon expiration of lease, and building is left unoccupied. (12) Jun. 15, 1945: Building was taken over by the City of Buffalo in a tax foreclosure of $104,616. (13) Oct. 15, 1947: Building had fallen into disrepair. Every double-paned window has been broken, the iron gate had fallen off its rusted hinges, the iron fence had been sacrificed for a wartime scrap collection. (14) Oct. 9, 1949: The Buffalo Courier Express wrote that “everything removable has been stripped by vandals. Lighting fixtures, door knobs, plumbing, and even part of the copper roof have been torn away systematically by thieves.” (15) Nov. 15, 1949: Building was sold to The Western Trading Corporation of Buffalo for $5000. (16) Feb. 1950: Demolition of building began. (17) July 1950: Demolition was completed. The floors, supported by 24 inch steel beams, were used to shore up coal mines in West Virginia. The bricks and stone were used to fill the Ohio Basin. (18) Nov. 27, 1951: Common Council approved petition to use site as parking lot, which is built. (19) To present: The north pier of the fence that bordered the west property line is still standing.
Current Use: Building demolished in 1950. A parking lot is on the site.
Current Condition: Demolished.
General Description:

The Larkin Building was constructed of dark red brick with pink tinted mortar. It was six stories, the main building was attached to a three story annex. The roof was paved with brick and served as a recreation area. The entrances of the building were flanked by two fountains which spilled water from inside the building into small pools attached to the exterior facade. The interior consisted of a five-story central court, surrounded by balconies. The upper level contained a kitchen, bakery, dining rooms, classrooms, a library, restrooms, a roof garden, and a conservatory. The interior walls were made of cream-colored brick. Natural and artificial light was provided by hermetically sealed double-paned windows. Wright used magnesite in the buildings interior, including in the floor, where it was mixed with cement. Stairs, doors, window sills, coping, capitals, partitions, desk tops, and plumbing slabs were all made of magnesite.(20) Wright took care, through evolving schemes, in the placement and exterior expression of the stairwells at the four corners of the building. These stairwells were paired with airshafts which carried cooled and cleaned air from the inventive air-handling system.

Construction Period:

A probable body of documentation concerning the construction of the Larkin Building was destroyed in a fire, there are relatively few sources remaining. (21)

Original Physical Context:

The Administrative Building was one of several Larkin company facilities, among them, factories and a retail store, located in an industrial section of downtown Buffalo along Seneca St. This site had been selected because of its proximity to the railroad lines, which surround the Larkin complex on three sides. The immediate atmosphere of the site was therefore laden with smoke. The need to create a clean atmosphere for the administrative and mail-order end of the business was an important factor in the design of the building. (22)

Evaluation
Technical Evaluation:

The technical aspirations of the Larkin building were driven by two factors: the desire to render the building fireproof (with the Chicago fire of 1871 in mind) and the desire to create a healthy and comfortable space within the polluted and noisy industrial context. As for the first, the building was built out of steel and masonry, but was rendered fireproof in more surprising ways as well. The metal desks, for instance, which Wright designed for the space, had fireproofed drawers, so that burning paper inside would simply burn out without spreading. As for the air and noise polluted atmosphere of the building’s surroundings, an air conditioning system was provided, one of the first during this time, which also cleaned the air that it cooled. The performance guarantees specified that the system was to thoroughly heat the building uniformly to 70 degrees in negative ten degree weather, that the blast fans move 28,000 cu. Ft. of air per minute each (there were four), and that 98% of dust and dirt was removed from the air. Furthermore, the windows were sealed air-tight, so that polluted air would not infiltrate the interior. (23) The floors, desktops, and cabinet-tops were covered in magnesite for sound insulation.

Social:

Documents indicate that the directors during the design of the Administrative Building held progressive views about the treatment of employees. They believed that a clean, safe, attractive work environment augmented productivity. (24) Therefore the Larking Building was designed to provide healthy and comfortable working conditions for the employees. Some criticism focuses upon the almost quasi-religious overtones of the buildings, particularly in the inscriptions engraved on building surfaces (the fifth-floor level contains two quotations from the Sermon on the Mount (25)), as well as with the daylight provided for through skylights.

Cultural & Aesthetic:
The Larkin building is made distinctive by its powerful geometric forms. It departs from the prevalent Beaux-Arts styling of similar administrative buildings such as that of Sears, Roebuck and Company. The most striking aspects of the building are the skylighting of the central space, the openness through five floors of the central space, and the decoration by Richard Bock, designed with Wight’s guidance.
Historical:

Early criticisms of the work were presented by Wright himself, at first at the behest of the company management for use in promotional publications. (26) Despite this, early opinion of the Larkin Building was hurt by an Architectural Record review by Russell Sturgis in 1908, who claimed, among other, more positive remarks, that the building was awkward and massive. (27) Wright justified this by claiming that the building was an antidote to the over proliferation of decoration, which was not appropriate for the building’s use. Therefore the building is very modern in style. Very little was written about the Larkin building following Sturgis’ criticism. (28) More recently, critics have looked anew at the modern influences that shaped the building’s design, including buildings with interior courts such as Burnham and Root’s Rookery Building, and the Marshall Field Store in Chicago. It’s strong lines have lead some critics, such as Reyner Banham and Vincent Scully, to suggest its affinity with the grain elevators that were common in the region at the time. (29)

General Assessment:
Documentation
Text references:

(1) Quinan, Jack. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Larkin Building: Myth and Fact. (MIT Press, 1991) p. 10.
(2) Ibid. 4.
(3) Ibid, p. 5.
(4) Ibid. p. 26.
(5) Ibid.
(6) Ibid.
(7) A&V. “Edificio Larkin (Larkin Company Administration Building)” 1995 Jul-Aug. n.54 p. 36.
(8) Quinan, p. 123.
(9) Puma, Jerome. “The Larkin Building, Buffalo, New York: History of the Demolition.” Frank Lloyd Wright Newsletter 1978 Sept.-Oct. v.1 n. 5 p.2-7
(10) Ibid.
(11) Prairie School Review, Vol. VIII, No. 2, 1971. pp.14-17
(12) Puma. 2-7.
(13) Ibid.
(14) Ibid.
(15) Quinan, p. 124.
(16) Puma. P. 2-7.
(17) Puma, 2-7
(18) Puma, 2-7
(19) Puma, 2-7.
(20) Puma, 2
(21) Quinan, Jack. Society of Architectural Historians. 1989 Jun. v. 48. Pp.210
(22) Quinan. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Larkin Building. p18.
(23) Ibid. 69.
(24) Ibid.. 44.
(25) Ibid., 102.
(26) Ibid., 111.
(27) Sturgis, Russell. “The Larkin Building in Buffalo.” Architectural Record. 1908 Apr. v. 23, pp. 312
(28) Quinan, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Larkin Building. 141.
(29) Ibid., 40-41.

Authoring
Recorder/Date:
Additional Images
Larkin Building

Robie House

Added by Lindsey Schweinberg, last update: August 17, 2012, 12:32 pm

Robie House
Location
5757 South Woodlawn Avenue
Hyde Park, IL 60637
United States
41° 47' 23.7732" N, 87° 35' 45.3696" W
Identity of Building / Site
Primary classification: Residential (RES)
Secondary classification:
Federal, State, or Local Designation(s) and Date(s):
History of Building/Site
Original Brief:

Commission brief: verbal obligation to build a house worth at least $20,000, design included boundary walls that ran to the very edges of the lot on the north and east
Design brief: Robie has done some sketches of the kind of house he wanted, probably simple diagrams showing the arrangement of rooms, and when he showed them to contractors and architects he kept getting the reply,” I know what you want, one of these damn Wright houses.” In his reminiscences of 1958, Robie claimed that he went to Wright knowing exactly the kind of house he wanted: “no junk” in the way of shades or curtains; maximum sunlight, with the shading provided only by broad overhanging eaves; separate nursery facilities; a yard with a wall to keep a children in and kidnappers out; rooms without interruptions; and a view out over his neighbors without relinquishing any his privacy. On the surface, it sounds as if he could have designed the house without Wright. However, it might be safer to assume that Robie did not know quite so specifically what he wanted, that aside from rejecting some conventions, the positive side of his program was.

Dates: Commission / Completion:Commission or competition date: Robie approached Wright around Christmas 1906. Largely complete: May 1910
Architectural and other Designer(s): Architect(s):Frank Lloyd Wright Building contractor(s): H.B. Barnard Co. of Chicago
Others associated with Building/Site: Name(s): The Taylor Family Association: 2nd house owner Event(s): bought the house from Frederick Robie and lived in this house for 11 years Period: 1911-1922 Original owner(s)/patron(s):Frederick Carlton Robie Name(s):TheWilber Family Association:3rd house owner Event(s): bought the house from The Taylor Family and lived in this house for 14 years Period: 1922-1926 Name(s):The Chicago Theological Seminary Association:bought the house from Wilber Family Event(s): used this house for dormitory for married students Period: since 1926 Name(s): Webb and Knapp Association: New York Real estate firm Event(s):saved the house from the risk of demolition Period:1941 Name(s):Webb and Knapp Association: New York Real estate firm Event(s):donate this house to University of Chicago Period: 1962
Significant Alteration(s) with Date(s): Type of change: 14 French doors on the original plan would open out onto balcony from the living and dining rooms. Date(s): during construction period. Circumstances/reasons for change: As the metal beams of the balcony were being bolted into place, Wright must have felt that he could exploit still further the skeletal possibilities of iron and steel construction. Effects of changes: From the street these changes are hard to detect, but to anyone looking up through these hatches to the roofs flying above them, the effect is intensely dramatic and the house begins to take on some of the freedom and romance of advanced nautical design. Persons/organization involved: Contractor Type of change: alteration: Date(s):1926 Circumstances/reasons for change: As Frederick C. Robie (original owner) went bankrupt a couple of years after construction, the house quickly fell on poor times. Effects of changes:It was turned into a dormitory. Persons/organization involved: Chicago Theological Seminary Type of change: other: ownership Date(s): 1963 Circumstances/reasons for change:Robie House was rescued (from being demolished) (like through the ingenuity of Julian Levi and arranged at a meeting in Mayor Daley’s office) by the New York firm overseeing much of the Urban Renewal work in Hyde Park, Webb and Knapp, led by William Zeckendorf, for $125,000. Many Hyde Parks, including newly elected alderman Leon Despres and his wife Marian (Auditorium Theater, Glesner House), worked diligently for preservation and eventual restoration. Type of change: renovation Date(s):2001 Circumstances/reasons for change: seriously deteriorated house was renovated before it serves as museum. Decades of decay and neglect have endangered the Frederick C. Robie House, the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building that the architect himself termed “a cornerstone of modern architecture” and the only one of his creations that he fought to save from demolition – twice. Wright was not the only one to regard the Robie House as an important structure. Architectural historians consider it one of the most important buildings in the history of American architecture and a masterpiece of the Prairie style. Although designated one of the 12 most significant structures of the twentieth century by the American Institute of Architects, the Robie House was badly in need of repairs. In 1999, the Robie House was named an official project of the Save America's Treasures program, intended to help preserve America's irreplaceable historic and cultural treasures. Now a 10-year, $8-million-plus restoration project is giving this American icon a new lease on life and preserving it for future generations. The restoration's main goals are to stabilize the building, repair the damage caused over time, and return the building to its original appearance in 1910 when construction was completed and the house best reflected the design intent of the architect and the client. Throughout the process, as much original building fabric as possible will be conserved, and as many original furnishings as possible will be installed. The restored Frederick C. Robie House will be operated and preserved as an architectural house museum, so that future generations can experience this historic treasure.Effects of changes: change from a gathering place for Chicago alumni to museum. Early on in the restoration, the building needed to be stabilized. Termite damage was more extensive than expected, as in this wood joist from the playroom. One wall was so thoroughly damaged by termites that it had to be removed and rebuilt. Removal of the non-original interior plaster revealed decayed wood. The Robie House was originally designed as a home, but is now being adapted for assembly occupancy. For instance, a non-original steel support beam in the first floor entryway had to be replaced with one that will prevent deflection of the plaster ceiling and provide structural stability for the increased load of public access. Inspection of the roof revealed unexpected levels of decay. 30% of the roof decking and 5% of the rafters required replacement or reinforcement. Epoxy treatment was utilized wherever possible to allow for a larger percentage of the original roof to remain intact. Insulation and an ice and water shield were installed to make the repaired roof watertight. Clay tile reproductions were made based on a small number of original tiles stored in the wine cellar when the original roof was replaced in the 1960s. The custom-made "hip" and "ridge" tiles fit tightly to the planes of the roof deck as they would have originally, bringing the roofline to its 1910 appearance. Much of the water damage suffered by the Robie House was due to copper gutter linings that were not angled to drain properly. New copper liners were installed on the upper sections of all the gutters. As additional precaution against leaks, ice and water shield was installed under the new liners and along the top edge. The original copper cornices of the gutters were conserved by sculpture conservators specializing in the conservation of metal outdoor sculptures. Layers of corrosion were removed with stiff rotating brushes. A protective patina restored the look to the original brown color. On the left is the gutter cornice before conservation, and after conservation on the right. The plaster soffits had deteriorated because water leaking through the roof rusted the metal lathe, making the plaster fail, creating cracks and holes, and even allowing icicles to form right through the plaster during Chicago's harsh winters. Robie House is famous for its gravity-defying cantilevers or overhangs. They got a new lease on life as new lathe was installed in preparation for plastering. The soffits (undersides of the cantilevers) were replastered with a texture that recreates the original. The soffits were painted their original golden ochre color, which highlights the colored glass in the windows and contrasts with the dark brown window sashes. With the freshly conserved gutters and repointed masonry, the horizontal lines of the building show dramatically sharp and crisp. Over the decades, soot, dirt and pollutants had accumulated on the brick surfaces. The first step was to clean the masonry by applying a special poultice and allowing it to cure before washing it off. Next, masons ground out the old mortar between the bricks, using chisels and special saws. Many bricks were damaged due to non-original mortar applied over the course of the building's history. Moisture infiltrating clay bricks freezes and expands during freeze/thaw weather cycles, slightly altering the shape and size of the bricks. A brick can handle this stress as long as it does not meet with resistance by adjacent materials. When the bricks expanded against the non-original hard cement mortar, they met resistance, which made them crack or break. Bricks that were too severely damaged to be repaired were cut out of the wall so that they could be replaced with originals that had been stock piled on site. All masonry surfaces were repointed with a lime putty mortar, which replicates the composition, color and texture of the original mortar. Unlike hard cement mortar, lime mortar is the perfect complement to clay brick because it is soft enough to cushion the brick's stress. It was applied as Wright had specified: putty-colored, concave horizontal joints not only to accentuate the building's horizontal lines, but also to prevent rain water from pooling between the bricks; and brick-colored, flush vertical joints.Chicago's winters had taken their toll on the sweeping porches. In the past, new layers of concrete were poured over previous layers to cover up the damage. Not only had large new cracks appeared, but the west porch floor was 5" higher than it had originally been. Note the shortened height of the lowest riser on the steps, due to the raised floor. The west porch was rebuilt with reinforced concrete to add structural support. Beneath the surface, a flexible tubing snowmelt system prevents the build-up of ice and snow dams. Other porches received new topping slabs with snowmelt systems. The cured concrete matches the color and texture of the original 1910 porches. An inadequate foundation had damaged the garden wall running along the property's south border, causing it to lean to one side. It was dismantled brick by brick and reinstalled on a new foundation. Here the limestone cap is being removed. Installation of new mechanical systems, including state-of-the-art temperature and humidity controls ensure a museum-quality interior environment. Interlocking aspirating fire detection and dry sprinkler systems protect the building. All internal electrical wiring was updated and new water service introduced to bring the building into compliance with today's codes for public use. The new piping was concealed beneath floors, within walls, ceiling spaces and existing closets. Just how deluxe Mr. Robie's three-car garage was in its day came to light when the non-original floor was removed to install new heating and water pipes. Sunk into the ground, below floor level, was a small cavity with thick concrete walls - the original mechanic's pit that Robie had requested Wright to include in his design for the garage. The placement of the new pipes was altered to allow the pit to remain intact. Although the Robie House Bookshop is currently housed in the garage, restoration goals include historic interpretation of the garage space. This central set of garage doors was reconstructed based on historic photographs. Later, staff at the University of Chicago discovered a fragment of an original garage door in the attic of a university building. Two more sets of reproduction doors were created based on detailed measurements of the original. All three sets of garage doors are now fully operational. With time and funding, the center doors will be modified to match the originals. The garage art glass windows were in fragmentary condition when restoration began, and were conserved for installation. They continue the unified line of art glass on the south façade of the house.The original eight-foot-high wall surrounding the garage was lowered at some point between 1925 and the 1950s. The existing wall was dismantled, original bricks and limestone set aside, and a new foundation poured. Both original and reproduction bricks were used to rebuild the wall to its 1910 height. In order to present the most accurate façade possible, original bricks were used on the side of the wall facing the street, and reproduction bricks were placed on the side facing the garage courtyard. To recreate the historically accurate wall, additional bricks that would match the originals were needed. Months of research, comparing of brick samples and test firings led to a brick manufacturer in Ohio that could match the distinctive color and texture of the original iron-spotted, coal-fired bricks. The reproduction bricks were cut in half lengthwise to achieve the correct height. The opening seen in the wall awaits reproduction steel gates. The Robie House's built-in flower boxes or planters help achieve a synthesis between the building and nature. The original watering system stopped working soon after construction was completed, and the planters had suffered damage over time. New copper liners were installed, and while the original pipes remain in place, new water supply pipes with freeze protection were added. This feature will allow for the installation of a drip irrigation system in the future. Here the glass panel from one of the art glass windows has separated from the metal came. All 174 art glass panels in the Robie House require conservation. Some are missing areas of metal came and are in danger of falling apart in situ. Others are bowing at an alarming rate. Many require reputtying with insulating putty. All need a thorough cleaning. Preservation Trust staff completed a detailed survey of the condition of each window, and created a triage list of priorities for conservation. Staff members consulted with top art glass conservators to develop a methodology for conservation and documentation of the work performed on each panel. One aspect the Robie Art Glass Conservation Methodology specifies is glass replacement: plate glass which exhibits significant cracks, breaks or chips should be replaced in kind, while similarly affected colored glass should always be edge-glued. Here the craftsman is cutting new glass to replace a cracked piece. When the conserved glass returns from the restoration studio, it is reinstalled into its original frame and location. The frames and window sashes are stabilized or conserved as needed.Persons/organization involved: The Robie House is being restored to its original splendor by the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust, according to the guidelines developed by the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties. The $8-million-plus project endeavors to preserve this icon of modern architecture as an architectural house museum, so future generations can experience its remarkable design and incredible spaces. Exterior restoration has been completed. Interior restoration has begun in the dining room prow area and will proceed as funds are raised. The restoration of the kitchen and baths is partially funded by tourismcares.org.
Current Use: Of whole building/site: Museum operated by Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust
Current Condition:
General Description:

Main features: It looks extremely complicated as a total composition, but it can be broken down visually into simpler parts. The law of interlocking masses - each large component of the house is designed in strict symmetry, but the components are allowed to combine in a fluid way. It is though the laws of physics had been momentarily suspended so that one solid mass could interpenetrate another until at a certain point these laws were suddenly reasserted and the drifting masses locked into place.- master bedroom wing on uppermost story. It follows a T-shaped plan and left to itself It would have been almost completely symmetrical. Strictness of symmetry – two giant flower urns obviously balance one another, but so do the piers on which they stand, the piers on which the long balcony seems to rest, and even the clusters of piers that hold up the roof. Exterior was shaped with colossal Froebel blocks but Wright wanted, make one forget the whole Froebel system with a few brilliant psychological tricks.- Garage wing stands at the rear of the house could not possibly have a pendant on the opposite side. There was no need for one and no space. - Wright cleverly detaches the garage from the main house, not physically but perceptually. Just at the point where the garage roof and the roof of the main house should merge.- Wright opens up a long, narrow slit that separates them again at least in a visual sense.- Just beneath the slit there is a grid of posts and lintels, which lines up with windows on both the south and north side of the kitchen and acts like a series of perforations, allowing the eye to pull the whole garage wing apart with just a gentle tug. Other perceptual tricks- The long balcony that runs along the side of the house is in fact supported by metal beams that protrude at regular intervals from the living and dining room floors.- With the stone copings above and below, the balcony itself looks like one giant I-beam, supported by a great brick post at either end.- It functions as a metaphor for an old-fashioned system of support, post and lintel construction, next to which the bold cantilever of the roof appears all that much more bold and soaring. - On the north side of the house, where there is no balcony, the same cantilevered roof looks slightly tamer.- In bright sunlight the balcony casts a broad band of shadow and reinforces the horizontal lines of design.- Horizontal joints deeply underscored for the masons conceal reinforce the dominant horizontal lines. French doors open out onto balcony from living and dining rooms. Featuring sweeping horizontal planes and a low-pitched roof cantilevered dramatically beyond the walls. Lightness and transparency provided by 174 art-glass windows and doors. Construction and materials: There is much more steel in the house than is usually supposed. Masons conceal all vertical joints while all horizontal joints were deeply underscored. Exterior walls are constructed of a red-orange brick. The capstones, lintels, sills and other exterior features are of a light gray stone, similar to sandstone. Art glass window dapple the house with color and light. It has no street façade and no obvious door. There are hardly any solid walls. Instead, it seems to be a building assembled out of giant blocks, free-floating roofs, and endless ribbons of windows. The distinguishing feature by which the house is immediately recognized is the famous cantilevered roof that extends twenty feel beyond the last masonry support and provokes the troubling thought that no wooden roof could possibly extend that far for long. Its relentlessly straight lines make the house look like the least natural of objects. It shuns the foliate ornament and historical detail that characterize the other houses on the block, most of which were constructed from progressive designs of the decade immediately preceding that of Robie House, 1900 to 1909. Its only ornament seems to be the abstract patterns in its windows and hundreds of flowers that blossom in season from planters hidden in nearly every horizontal ledge. Peering through the screen of plants and glass, one wonders where the inhabitants could possibly live. Comparing the house with its generous and graceful neighbors, one senses a sharp social break, a tone of emphatic dissent. On a street of large, stately houses the Robie House looks small and severe and, one might rashly judge, cheap, like an interloper from a different class, a mechanic among the gentry.

Construction Period:
Original Physical Context:

60-foot lot that Robie purchases in 1906 is the narrowest lot on this stretch of Woodlawn Avenue.

Evaluation
Technical Evaluation:
Social:

A new U.S. postal stamp featuring Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House was made available February 4th, 1998 as part of a series of 30 stamps that honored important people and events of the 20th century.

Cultural & Aesthetic:
‘Most ideal place in the world.’ said Fred C. Robie A few houses of the previous generation had experimented with similar ideas, but comparisons serve merely to show how distinctive the Robie House really is, and how complete was its rupture with convention. Canonical status: One of the best known early examples of Prairie style architecture. According to the Historical American Buildings Survey, the city of Chicago’s Commission on Chicago Architectural Landmarks stated: “The bold interplay of horizontal planes about the chimney mass, and the structurally expressive piers and windows, established a new form of domestic design.” When the Seminary again proposed to replace the house with a high-rise dorm in 1956-7, Wright visited and gave a much-quoted statement: “To destroy it would never be permitted in Europe. It could only happen in America, and it is particularly sad that professional religionists should be the executioners…It all goes to show the danger of entrusting anything spiritual to the clergy.” Soon after, the city’s new Commission on Architectural Landmarks named Robie House its first “honorary” landmark, although the commission lacked power. The Seminary’s response was to suggest giving Robie to the city if the city would relocate it or to build a model in a museum. Robie House epitomizes Wright’s signature Prairie style, while Wright made significant contributions to modern architecture during his prolific 70-year career. It was considered by Frank Lloyd Wright his quintessential Prairie School creation, a work of both art and spirituality. The house is generally considered a turning point in modern residential architecture. It was voted one of the ten most important buildings in America – in its structure, as design, as integration of materials, as design for domestic life and layout of living space. The Robie House contributed to a totally new conception of the façade and thus broke with an age-old tradition in architecture. For centuries the façade had been the static face of a building, solid, symmetrical, and set at right angles to the axis of approach. Wright’s reputation as a great innovator in the realm of structure has obscured the fact that he was also a brilliant visual psychologist with many perceptual tricks found in Robie House as instance.
Historical:

The Robie House preservation fight in the 1950s was the spark behind the city’s first landmark protection ordinance.

General Assessment:
Documentation
Text references:

JOSEPH Connors, The Robie House of Franke Lloyd Wright, Chicago and London; The University of Chicago Press; 1984; ISBN 0-226-11541-0
DONALD Hoffmann, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House, The Illustrated Story of an architectural masterpiece, New York, Dover Publications, Inc., 1984, ISBN 0-486-24582-9
Webpage (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robie_House,
(http://frank.lloydwright.info/architectural/robie-house.html, (http://www.wrightplus.org/robiehouse/robiehouse.html), (http://tw.traveleredge.com/USNP/STATE/IL/robie.asp)

Authoring
Recorder/Date: Name of reporter: Phyllis Leung Wai Yin< Address: 119th Street Avery Hall Columbia University Telephone: 646 578 9196 Fax: Email: wpl2102@columbia.edu" Date of report: 28 February 2007
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Robie House
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