I'm sure a number of people are going to be asking that question as they visit this site. It's a question we at PrairieMod have been asking ourselves for the last few years. We've been wrestling with a way to describe our own personal aesthetic and thus we formulated a term that best describes the style of life that we have chosen to surround ourselves with.
Living and growing up in the in the outskirts of Chicago, Illinois, one can't help but run across something created or influenced by the Prairie School. Notable 19th and early 20th century Midwestern architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Walter Burley Griffin, Marion Mahony Griffin, William Gray Purcell, George Grant Elmslie and William Labarthe Steele are all associated with the Prairie School style. The style makes use of flat roofs, horizontal lines, open plans, natural materials, broad cantilevered eaves, honest craftsmanship and the unified use of decoration and ornament.
Frank Lloyd Wright is credited with originating the Prairie Style, and it is seen as an outgrowth of the Craftsman Movement. Even with the massive conceptual leap forward that his work represented, Mr. Wright in his personal philosophy was a product of the 19th century. He firmly believed in Nature, beauty, craftsmanship, simplicity, individualism and the notion that a better home would create better people. It's these ideas that helped shape the Prairie Style and were shared and proliferated by his contemporaries in the Prairie School.
Unfortunately, After the horrors of World War I, the decadence of the Jazz Age and crushing despair of the Great Depression, the ideas of the Craftsman Movement and Prairie School were quickly set aside and forgotten. Frank Lloyd Wright and his contemporaries were relegated to the past and the world became enamored with the steel and glass minimalism of the Modernism Movement. FLLW was able to evolve and eventually distinguish himself as the premier American architect, but most in our society forgot or were never exposed to the ideas he championed and as such, our country has existed in a pop-cultural Dark Age ever since. Most would consider the Prairie School's ideas at odds with the modern world; a quaint throwback to a time that can never be recaptured. Not so.
What we at PrairieMod have set out to do is try and turn this thinking on it's ear. It's our self-described mission to show that the ideas and ideals expressed over a century ago by the Prairie School and in the case of what Frank Lloyd Wright refined and matured over his 70 year career, can and should be studied, experienced and adopted for our modern world. Those notions of craftsmanship, honest construction, unity of design, beauty, function and simplicity are universal themes that are not relegated to a bygone era. They were meant for any time and are as true today as they were back then. For example, Frank Lloyd Wright's USONIAN house was a modern evolution on his ideas formed during the Prairie Period. Eventually, the ranch house and subsequent notion of "track housing" were the outgrowth of his USONIAN concept, but the philosophy behind the concept was not co-opted as well, and over the years, the simple ranch home has devolved and become perverted into the state of American housing that we are saddled with today.
In the era of the "McMansion" and the mass consumption of cheap and poorly manufactured Chinese imports, it becomes imperative that we rethink our society's cultural course and re-examine what makes us American. We at PrairieMod feel the need to look back and champion those early ideals and help find ways to apply and incorporate them as they suit the individual and ultimately the collective for today. We look forward to opening the discussion up and hopefully finding a way to bring beauty and honesty back to the American way of life.