Frank Lloyd Wright Buildings in Chicago
Frank Lloyd Wright Buildings in Chicago | © David Arpi, Flickr User

Frank Lloyd Wright, one of the most influential architects of the 20th century, left an indelible mark on the architectural landscape of Chicago and its surrounding areas. Known for his innovative designs and pioneering the Prairie School movement, Wright’s work emphasized harmony with the environment, the use of natural materials, and the creation of functional, aesthetically pleasing spaces. His connection to Chicago is particularly significant, as many of his early works and major projects are located in and around the city. This article explores Wright’s architectural legacy in Chicago, highlighting key buildings that showcase his evolving style and enduring influence.

The mother art is architecture. Without an architecture of our own we have no soul of our own civilization.

– Frank Lloyd Wright

Early Works of Frank Lloyd Wright in Chicago

Winslow House | 1893-1894

Eric Allix Rogers
Winslow House | © Eric Allix Rogers, Flickr User
  • Location: 515 Auvergne Place, River Forest, Illinois
  • Significance: The Winslow House was Wright’s first independent commission, marking a pivotal moment in his career. This residence features a symmetrical design and an early expression of Wright’s signature horizontal emphasis. The use of broad, overhanging eaves and the integration of the structure with its natural surroundings foreshadow the elements that would define his later works.

Walter Gale House | 1893

Chris Bertram
© Chris Bertram, Flickr User
  • Location: 1031 Chicago Ave, Oak Park, Illinois
  • Significance: Designed during the same period as the Winslow House, the Walter Gale House blends traditional architectural motifs with Wright’s emerging modernist ideas. The house exhibits a complex roofline and a combination of brick and wood materials, reflecting Wright’s experimentation with different forms and textures. This house represents a transitional phase in Wright’s development, bridging his early influences and the distinct Prairie style he would later perfect.

These early works highlight Frank Lloyd Wright’s initial forays into independent architectural design and set the stage for his subsequent innovations in the Prairie School movement. Through these projects, Wright began to articulate his vision of architecture that harmonizes with the natural environment while introducing new ideas about space, form, and functionality.

Iconic Prairie School Designs

Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio | 1889, remodeled in 1895 and 1898

Kevin Zolkiewicz
Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio | © Kevin Zolkiewicz, Flickr User
  • Location: 951 Chicago Ave, Oak Park, Illinois
  • Significance: Wright’s own residence and workspace in Oak Park served as a laboratory for his developing ideas and architectural experiments. The Home and Studio complex features interconnected spaces, reflecting Wright’s innovative approach to residential design. The building incorporates elements of the Prairie School, such as horizontal lines and a strong relationship between the interior and exterior. This space was crucial in shaping Wright’s architectural philosophy and provided a base for his burgeoning career.

Unity Temple | 1905-1908

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Unity Temple | © Xavier de Jauréguiberry, Flickr User 
  • Location: 875 Lake St, Oak Park, Illinois
  • Significance: Unity Temple is a groundbreaking building in Wright’s portfolio, notable for its use of reinforced concrete – a rare and innovative choice at the time. Designed as a Unitarian Universalist church, the structure features a cubic form and geometric simplicity. The interior is characterized by an open and airy space, with natural light filtering through stained-glass windows. This project highlights Wright’s ability to blend functional requirements with aesthetic beauty, setting a new standard for modern religious architecture.

Robie House | 1909-1910

Robie House | © geraldhumphrey, Flickr User 
  • Location: 5757 S Woodlawn Ave, Hyde Park, Chicago
  • Significance: The Frederick C. Robie House is often considered the quintessential example of Wright’s Prairie School architecture. Located in the Hyde Park neighborhood, it features dramatic horizontal lines, cantilevered roofs, and an open floor plan. The design emphasizes the building’s integration with its site, using long, low proportions to blend with the flat landscape of the Midwest. The Robie House’s innovative use of space and light has made it an icon of American architecture.

Arthur Heurtley House | 1902

Arthur Heurtley House
Arthur Heurtley House | © Chris Bertram, Flickr User
  • Location: 318 Forest Ave Oak Park, Illinois
  • Significance: The Arthur Heurtley House is another seminal work in Wright’s Prairie School oeuvre. The house showcases many of the characteristics that define the style, including strong horizontal lines, overhanging eaves, and an emphasis on natural materials. The interior layout is open and fluid, with spaces that flow seamlessly into one another, creating a sense of unity and coherence. The design’s focus on harmony with the surrounding environment is a hallmark of Wright’s architectural philosophy.

Frank W. Thomas House | 1901

Frank W. Thomas House
Frank W. Thomas House | © Phil Beard, Flickr User
  • Location: 210 Forest Ave, Oak Park, Illinois
  • Significance: An important early example of Wright’s Prairie style, the Frank W. Thomas House features many elements that would come to define his work. The house’s design includes wide, sheltering roofs, horizontal lines, and a central hearth, symbolizing the home’s core. The emphasis on natural materials and craftsmanship is evident throughout, reflecting Wright’s belief in creating structures that are both functional and aesthetically integrated with their surroundings.

Edwin H. Cheney House | 1903

Edwin H. Cheney House | 1903
Edwin H. Cheney House | © Teemu008, Flickr User
  • Location: 520 N East Ave, Oak Park, Illinois
  • Significance: The Edwin H. Cheney House is notable for its unique design, which reflects Wright’s experimentation with the Prairie style. The house features a large central fireplace, an open interior layout, and extensive use of wood and natural materials. The design prioritizes horizontal lines and incorporates elements that enhance the connection between the indoor and outdoor spaces. This house illustrates Wright’s commitment to creating homes that are both beautiful and livable.

These iconic Prairie School designs exemplify Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural genius and his ability to revolutionize residential architecture. By emphasizing horizontal lines, open floor plans, and a strong connection with nature, Wright created a distinct and enduring architectural style that continues to inspire and influence architects around the world.

Later Works of Frank Lloyd Wright in Chicago

Nathan G. Moore House | 1895, remodeled in 1923

Nathan G. Moore House
Nathan G. Moore House | © Chris Bertram, Flickr User
  • Location: 333 Forest Ave, Oak Park, Illinois
  • Significance: Originally designed in a Tudor Revival style, the Nathan G. Moore House underwent significant remodeling by Wright in 1923 to incorporate more elements of the Prairie School style. The renovation included the addition of horizontal lines, overhanging eaves, and an emphasis on natural materials, aligning the house more closely with Wright’s evolving architectural philosophy.

Emil Bach House | 1915

Emil Bach House
Emil Bach House | © Eric Allix Rogers, Flickr User
  • Location: 7415 N Sheridan Rd, Rogers Park, Chicago
  • Significance: The Emil Bach House represents a later example of Wright’s Prairie School design. This compact, urban home features cantilevered roofs, a strong horizontal emphasis, and extensive use of natural materials. The house’s design integrates indoor and outdoor spaces, demonstrating Wright’s continued commitment to creating harmonious and livable environments.

Isabel Roberts House | 1908

Isabel Roberts House
Isabel Roberts House | © Teemu008, Flickr User
  • Location: 603 Edgewood Pl, River Forest, Illinois
  • Significance: The Isabel Roberts House is another notable example of Wright’s Prairie School architecture. The house features an open floor plan, with spaces flowing seamlessly into one another. The use of horizontal lines, natural materials, and a central fireplace are key elements of Wright’s design philosophy, creating a warm and inviting living space.

Significant Renovations

The Rookery Building Renovation | 1905-1907

The Rookery Building Renovation
The Rookery Building Renovation | © Warren LeMay, Flickr User
  • Location: 209 S La Salle St, Loop, Chicago
  • Significance: Wright redesigned the lobby of the historic Rookery Building, originally designed by Burnham and Root. Wright’s renovation incorporated elements of his distinctive style, including ornamental ironwork and geometric patterns, while respecting the original architecture. This project exemplifies Wright’s ability to blend his modernist principles with existing structures, enhancing their aesthetic and functional qualities.


Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural legacy in Chicago is vast and enduring. Through his innovative designs and commitment to creating harmonious, functional spaces, Wright transformed the architectural landscape of the city and its suburbs. His works, from the early Prairie School masterpieces to the later renovations, continue to inspire and influence architects and designers worldwide. The buildings he designed not only reflect his genius but also his profound understanding of how architecture can enhance and integrate with the natural environment.

Notes & Additional Credits
  1. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Chicago by Thomas J. O’Gorman
  2. The Oak Park Studio of Frank Lloyd Wright by Lisa D. Schrenk 
  3. Twombly, Robert C. Frank Lloyd Wright: His Life and His Architecture. John Wiley & Sons, 1979
  4. Gill, Brendan. Many Masks: A Life of Frank Lloyd Wright. Da Capo Press, 1998.
  5. Hoffmann, Donald. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House: The Illustrated Story of an Architectural Masterpiece. Dover Publications, 1984.