«The inhabitants of Chicago, who did not like the house Robie, that they were feeling offended by the innovation of his aspect and his long and widespread horizontal lines, tried to ridicule her comparing it with a steam ship the same as the critics were going to say hereinafter of Him Corbusier on his buildings. Without knowing it, they were giving to understand that the house was constructed in the spirit of the epoch from which it was coming».
When the spring comes, Oak Park‘s green tapestry is recognized easily inside Chicago. His tidy geometry joined the great urban reticle, turns into the perfect abstraction of the American meadow, and into the fecund laboratory where Frank Lloyd Wright could put in practices his revolutionary ideas on the domestic architecture.
Since he constructs his own residence – study in Oak Park and for twenty years – from 1889 to 1909-, Wright developed a series of offers that would transform totally the way of understanding the one-family suburban housing. He named to the domestic offers of this period «houses of the meadow» and, between them, house for Frederick C. Robie, finished in 1910, would be his more representative exponent, the perfect dialog between the architecture and the place..
One can understand the paradigm of the prairie houses in terms of dialog: Dialog that is established between the different stays, on having broken his traditional inscrutability; dispute between interior and exterior; between east and west; between the predominant horizontal lines – the meadow – and the round vertical chimney – the home – that anchors the house and his inhabitants to the place … but, especially, between the house as machine and the house as refuge, the eternal dialectics of the modern housing.
Na house that it protects and liberates at the same time is Wright’s domestic conception. Christian Norberg-Schulz makes clear that the great value of the work consists of having given a «modern» interpretation to the fundamental meanings of the existential space. Thereby Wright re-discovers archetypal concepts and puts in relation the Old man and the New World, laying the foundations for the later architecture.
In spite of his break – metaphorical and literal – with the domestic traditional space, Wright placed in the center of the project the chimney, the heat of the home. «The great chimney, inside the house, would turn into a place of live ammunition. In that time, a place of authentic fire was something extraordinary», it left writing in his Autobiography. And it added:
«This way, in all those houses that were allowed me to construct in the meadow, the integral chimney turned into a part of the building itself».
For Wright, the flushed fire supposed also a great help for the creative effort materialized concerning the great chimney, the the only, wide and generous. «I was getting pleased to see the fire burning intensely in the solid masonry of the house. A feeling that lasted». Still today, the silhouettes of these chimneys intermingle with naturalness between Oak Park’s trees.
Antonio S. Río Vázquez . Doctor architect
A Coruña. october 2014
Antonio S. Río Vázquez (A Coruña, 1981) es arquitecto por la E.T.S.A. de A Coruña, master en Urbanismo y doctor por la Universidade da Coruña. Especializado en teoría y diseño, su línea de trabajo se ha centrado en la investigación y divulgación del patrimonio arquitectónico moderno. Ha desarrollado proyectos de modo independiente y ha colaborado con varios estudios de arquitectura. Es socio fundador de Aroe Arquitectura. Es profesor en el Departamento de Proyectos Arquitectónicos, Urbanismo y Composición de la Universidade da Coruña, y ha sido profesor invitado en la Robert Gordon University de Aberdeen (Reino Unido), en la Universidade do Minho (Portugal) y en la Università degli Studi di Roma La Sapienza (Italia). Es miembro de la red UEDXX Urbanism of European Dictatorships during the XXth Century, del Grupo de Investigación en Historia de la Arquitectura IALA y del Grupo de Innovación Educativa en Historia de la Arquitectura. Ha formado parte del proyecto de investigación FAME Fotografía y Arquitectura Moderna en España, 1925-1965. Los resultados de sus investigaciones, tanto personales como conjuntas, han servido como aportación a eventos de debate y difusión científica y han sido publicados en libros y revistas.