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Prairie House Plans

Originally designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and the Prairie School, homes built from prairie house plans demonstrate a unique and beautiful American style. Our prairie style house plans are distinctive in look and functional in design.

Prairie Style House Plans

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What follows are excerpts from “American Shelter”, written by Lester Walker, and published by Overlook Press in 1997

Prairie

American Shelter by Lester Walker Prairie Style architects, working in the prairies of the Midwest, primarily around suburban Chicago and rural Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin, have created some of the most original, influential American architecture. They explored new ways of relating buildings to the land, used undecorated natural materials, and, most importantly, invented new concepts of interior space. Prairie Style influences came from the strength of the Shingle Style, the commercial architecture of Chicago, and the English Arts and Crafts movement. The Prairie Style had a great effect on the European International Style in the 1920s and later, the American International Style.

The Prairie Style began in Chicago around 1897 with a group of architects, whose goal was the development of a new American architecture especially suited to the Midwest, forming an office at Steinway Hall. A disciple of architect Louis Sullivan (world famous for his writing and commercial architecture), Frank Lloyd Wright, was the first among the group to move toward an original architecture and soon leadership passed to him. He has written, “We of the Middle West are living on the prairie. The prairie has a beauty of its own and we should recognize and accentuate this natural beauty, its quiet level. Hence, gently sloping roofs, low proportions, quiet sky lines, suppressed heavy-set chimneys and sheltering overhangs, low terraces and out-reaching walls sequestering private gardens.”

The center of Prairie Style activity moved from Steinway Hall to Wright’s studio in Oak Park in 1899. There he trained several young architects, among them Walter Burley Griffin and Walter Drummond. Other well-known Prairie Style architects, such as George Elmslie and William Steele, worked for Louis Sullivan; while William Purcell, George Maher, and Robert Spencer worked for other architects before opening their own offices. These men formed the main body of architects that constituted what became known as the Prairie School.

The Prairie Style encompasses the period from 1900 until 1919, but it reached its height in 1915. By then Frank Lloyd Wright had mastered the style. His most famous Prairie Style design was the Robie House. This house, like most of his work uses a centrally located fireplace as a divider of space and as the focal point of the building. The fireplace incorporates an entry stair and separates the living room, dining room and entry. Wright was a genius at arranging rooms so as to create highly efficient interior space.

Other Prairie Style architects greatly contributed to the style but the quality of Wright’s work was so powerful that he is generally given credit for its beginnings. But, Wright himself was influenced by Walter Burley Griffin’s split level vertical organization of the plan and his use of poured concrete and concrete blocks in residential architecture. William Drummond is responsible for the use of precise geometric forms, the right angle, and the slab roof. Purcell and Elmslie employed a technique that juxtaposed smooth surface with sharp-edged voids in their late white stucco work.

Historical interest in the Prairie Style has fluctuated greatly over the years. The style was recognized early and enjoyed national publicity until about the time of World War I when rising interest in technology and the machine age caused it to be all but forgotten. It experienced something of a revival in the 1950s when it became the basis for the split level and ranch house. More recently, in the 1960s, it had an influence on California Bay architecture and the New Shingle Style in the East.