We're back! We had a fantastic time experiencing Wisconsin's Mid-Century Modern Organic Architecture on the 2008 Wright & Like Tour. Even though we had to dodge a few twisters and deal with copious amounts of rain at the end of the day, the tour Wright In Wisconsin put together was phenomenal! Here's a wrap-up of some of the things we saw...
The day started with a sunny walk in the woods as we neared our first house on the tour, the Dr. Maurice and Mrs. Margaret Greenberg House. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1954, the house is dramatically sited on the brow of a glacial hill, giving a view of the forest canopy that takes your breath away.
Incredibly unique among Wright's Usonian designs, the Greenberg house has several different levels that make up its spatial flow, as the house rises and descends with the boulders it is married to.
The current owners are busy with plans to finish an unexecuted bedroom wing addition to the house, return the landscape to how Wright originally intended it and also rebuild an adjacent workshop used during the home's construction. It was interesting to get a glimpse of this particular project in process...
Our next stop on the road trip was Wright & Like 2008 Tour Headquarters: The "Gobbler" Restaurant designed by Helmut Ajango in 1967.
This curious futuristic design has drawn inspiration from practitioners of Organic Architecture like Frank Lloyd Wright and Bruce Goff, but is uniquely Ajango's.
The building grew out of the idea of turkey magnate, Clarence Hartwig, who wanted a restaurant that exclusively served turkey as a way to promote it as a year-round dish (hence the affectionate name "Gobbler".) Truth is stranger than fiction, right!
As Bryan conducted his podcast interview, I checked out the yearly Frank Lloyd Wright book sale that Shining Brow Books puts together for the Wright & Like event. As always, there was a fantastic selection and of course I walked away with some new additions to the PrairieMod Library.
It was time to hit the road again and head towards our next stop, the Richard C. and Berenice Smith House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1954. Nestled around a magnificent 250+ year old oak tree at the heart of the site, this house employs a 60/120 degree angle design module (which appears strikingly as a parallelogram shape throughout.)
Like many of the other Usonian designs we saw on this tour, the Smith home utilizes beautifully natural materials like stone, wood and glass. I especially loved the trellis that shelters the walkway entry to the home. As a mark of Wright's masterful use of unified design motifs--when the sun shines, the trellis even casts a very dramatic parallelogram shadows on the ground!
As we headed out towards our next destination, ominously dark clouds started to appear on the horizon. We pressed on hoping to beat the storm that was brewing and see as many more of these amazing homes as possible. Next on the list were two architectural gems located in Columbus, Wisconsin. Though the Wright & Like 2008 tour was branded as a look at Mid-Century Modernism, you can't pass up the opportunity to pay homage to an architect that help inspire the Organic Architecture we were enjoying.
Louis Sullivan's 1919 Farmers & Merchants Union Bank is the last of his "Jewel Box" banks that he designed at the sunset of his career.
This creative tour de force features a mountain of design in a efficient little package.
Beautiful art glass, amazingly detailed terra cotta, richly brown-red Roman brick--this bank is a fitting tribute to the creative genius that inspired a new generation of progressive architects. Architects like Frank Lloyd Wright, who envisioned the philosophy and designs of the Prairie School and eventually the Mid-Century Modern Usonian homes we were enjoying today.
We had stayed ahead of the storm for a bit, but as we traveled the short distance to the other Columbus stop, our luck had started to run out.
We had just arrived at the E. Clarke and Julie Arnold House (Frank Lloyd Wright 1954), when the storm started to roll in. We had just enough time to get a quick exterior tour and head inside before the rain drops started to fall.
Another example of Wright's masterful use of the parallelogram module (like at the Smith house) this home featured a twist on the usual Usonian color scheme with Golden ocher floors instead of the signature "Cherokee Red." It also features an additional bedroom wing designed by Wright apprentice, Jack Howe that integrates perfectly into the original design.
As we returned our shoe "booties" upon exiting, the rain started to fall furiously and the tornado sirens began to wail. We made a mad dash back to the car and realized that seeing many of the remaining homes on the tour was unlikely, since it meant possibly driving into the tornado's path. So, we decided to head back towards Chicago as safely and quickly as possible and make one last stop.
We managed to stay relatively in front of the storm's path as we drove east--back towards where we began the day. We decided to try and see the last house on our tour list, the Stanley and Harriet Schirmir House, designed by John Randal McDonald in 1958. Once again, we were in front of the rain, but only briefly. We got a tour of this magnificent 4-level stone house, whose rounded features are present in everything from the round closet, to the round stone stairwell, to even a rounded pocket door! McDonald drew inspiration from other Organic Architects, but found a masterful way to interpret the same principles in new and engaging ways.
Sadly, during the tour the rain started coming down in buckets (as you can make out coming off the roof in the above photo) and we were not able to get any exterior shots of this rounded stone house. We made a dash for the car during a lighter rain period and started the drive back to Illinois.
Even though it rained like I haven't seen it rain in a very long time, it couldn't dampen the wonderful and exciting day we had. Major kudos and thanks to Wright In Wisconsin for putting together such a stellar group of house tours for this unique event. We're really heartened to see serious study and appreciation being given to the important role that Organic Architecture played in the growth of Modernism and its roots in the progressive design and principles of the Prairie School. It's ultimately what the message of PrairieMod is all about!
If anyone who attended would like to share their comments and/or any photos of the houses we missed--we'd love to have you fill in the blanks and finish the story of this remarkable tour!
All photos copyright PrairieMod