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The Robie House: Frank Lloyd Wright's Architectural Masterpiece

CEO Khai Intela
The Robie House, located on the campus of the University of Chicago in Illinois, is a true architectural gem that showcases the brilliance of renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Constructed between 1909 and 1910, this...

The Robie House, located on the campus of the University of Chicago in Illinois, is a true architectural gem that showcases the brilliance of renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Constructed between 1909 and 1910, this single-family home has been recognized as a U.S. National Historic Landmark and is widely regarded as one of the finest examples of the Prairie School architectural style.

Robie House Technical Information

  • Architect: Frank Lloyd Wright | Biography & Bibliography
  • Location: 5757 South Woodlawn Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, USA
  • Topics: Prairie Style, Unesco, Brick in Architecture
  • Area: 9,062 square feet, 840 m2
  • Project Year: 1909
  • Photographs: © Hassan Bagheri, © Gerald Humphrey, © Timothy Brown, © Frederick Tim Long, © David Arpi

"During the decades of eclecticism’s triumph there were also many innovators—less heralded than the fashionable practitioners, but exerting more lasting influence. Of these innovators, none could rival Frank Lloyd Wright. By any standard, his Robie House was the House of the 1900s—indeed the House of the Century."

  • House and Home magazine, 1957

The Architecture of the Robie House

The Robie House represents the Prairie style of architecture, which was characterized by its harmonious integration with the Midwest prairie landscape. This style is known for its horizontal lines, art-glass windows, and the use of Roman brick. Frank Lloyd Wright not only designed the house itself but also meticulously crafted every detail of the interiors, fixtures, and furnishings, considering them integral components of the structure's overall character.

The exterior of the house features cantilevered roof eaves, continuous bands of art-glass windows, and a red-orange iron-spotted Roman brick veneer. Cream-colored mortar in the horizontal joints and brick-colored mortar in the vertical joints accentuate the horizontal lines. The steel structure enables minimal deflection of the eaves, while the exterior trim work, such as the urns, copings, and lintels, is made of Bedford limestone.

Robie House Interior

The design of the Robie House is characterized by two large rectangles that appear to be sliding past one another. Frank Lloyd Wright referred to the southwest section of the site, which contains the main living spaces, as "the major vessel." The first-floor features a billiards room, children's playroom, and a small passage leading to an enclosed garden. On the second floor, there is an entry hall, living room, and dining room. These rooms seamlessly flow into one another and open through French doors to an exterior balcony, embracing the concept of indoor-outdoor living.

The house comprises two main sections: the "major vessel," housing the principal living spaces, and the "minor vessel," which contains the functional and service-related rooms. The minor vessel includes the main entrance, stairway, half-bath, laundry room, workshop, and a three-car garage. The second floor of the minor vessel features a guest bedroom, full bath, kitchen, butler's pantry, and servants' quarters. The third floor, known as the "belvedere," provides breathtaking views and houses the master bedroom, dressing area, full bath, and two additional bedrooms.

With a total area of approximately 9,062 square feet, the Robie House boasts a central chimney mass containing four fireplaces and a main stairway constructed of the same brick and limestone as the exterior.

The Quintessential Prairie House

As with all Prairie houses, Frank Lloyd Wright designed the light fixtures for the Robie House. These fixtures seamlessly blend with the overall design, incorporating hemispherical shades and spherical globes within wooden squares. Soffit lighting with translucent colored glass diffusers further enhances the aesthetic. Wright's attention to detail extends to the furniture, carpets, and textiles throughout the house. Notably, a sofa with extended armrests echoes the cantilevers of the exterior roof, creating side tables. While some of the original furnishings were not designed by Wright due to financial constraints, they have been carefully curated to maintain the overall essence of his vision.

The Robie House was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1963 and was included on the World Heritage List in 2019 as part of "The 20th-Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright." This architectural masterpiece continues to inspire and captivate visitors from around the world.

About Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright, a pioneer in American architecture, left an indelible mark through his innovative designs. With over 1,000 structures created during his illustrious 70-year career, Wright's philosophy of "organic architecture" emphasized harmony between humanity and the environment. His works, including the Fallingwater House, Johnson Wax Building, and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, have become iconic examples of his Prairie School style. Architects worldwide continue to draw inspiration from his visionary approach.

Full Bio | Works from Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House: The Illustrated Story of an Architectural Masterpiece by Donald Hoffmann