Frank Lloyd Wright was commissioned to design a house for Frederick C Robie on a plot of land close to the University of Chicago in 1908. Robie was keen to have an innovative architect to design a modern-style house for a family home. The resulting house sticks out like a sore thumb in Hyde Park – Prairie-style amidst the early Collegiate Gothic buildings of the university.
This model of the house can be seen in FLW’s Oak Park office.
FLW had some bizarre ideas about the placement of a house’s front door. It is not visible in this photograph – but it is beneath the chimney pots on the far side of the property. There is a long path from the street on the left of the shot. The doors on the right side of the building are for a triple garage (now this is the ticket office and shop). There is a back door and tradesman’s entrance just to the left of the garages.
The upper floor has a wall of glass doors, on the right of the photograph. Despite the open fireplace (it looked as though it would fill the house with smoke!), the Robie family needed to wear extra clothing indoors in winter.
FLW closed his Oak Park office in 1909 to go travelling in Europe, so he did not oversee the building of the Robie House. Unfortunately, the Robie family only lived there for 14 months (financial difficulties following the death of his father and marital discord). After two other owners, the house was bought by the Chicago Theological Seminary in 1926 and used as a dormitory. Mies van der Rohe rescued the house from demolition just before World War Two. It was bought by the University of Chicago and in 2002, the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust started work on restoring the house and contents. The work was completed in 2019 and it is wonderful. I urge you all to go and see it if you are interested in architecture and FLW in particular.