Field Trip :: The Robie House

The Robie House, Chicago, IL [Photo by Richard Griswold]
Field Trip: The Robie House in Chicago
By Richard Griswold, Associate Provost and Dean of Students

Whenever I have to travel for business, I always look for something to see/do in my destination that is unique to the place to investigate. While investigating Chicago, I discovered that there is a comprehensive "private spaces" tour of Frank Lloyd Wright's 1909
Robie House.

Mason Pritchett, an architect and former BAC studio teacher, and I arrived at 9 am on a Sunday, where we found seven others waiting patiently near the house's three-car, attached garage. Our guide was a volunteer, trained as a sociologist. She was deeply knowledgeable about the architecture, interiors and ongoing restoration efforts, but her insight into the life of the house was excellent: One has a different sense of the house upon learning that the Robies only lived in their dream house for about two years before selling it at a loss.

House Plans
The front half of the main floor, containing the living room and dining room split by a fireplace and the entry stair is a textbook example of the Prairie Style. Steel hidden in the roof structure allows 16' cantilevers and a row of fourteen pairs of glass double doors onto a balcony with a privileged view of the neighborhood.

Art Glass in the Master Bedroom [Photo by Richard Griswold]
Upstairs, the domestic spaces are smaller than a comparable recently built suburban house, but the details, the art glass, built ins, the attention to detail was inspiring. The guide helped us realize that the time the labor of craftsmen was cheaper, but the materials needed to make a building were comparatively more expensive. This one notion began to explain to me what I dislike about even the best, recent high-end residential architecture.

The tour was excellent, but towards the end of the tour, the chance to wander around in the house just a little was the real treat.