Book: Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House

FLW Robie House cover.jpg Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House
The Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust
Introduction by Paul Goldberger
Photography by Tim Long

A house comforts us, protects us, and smoothes the rough edges of daily life. Great architecture challenges us,
inspires us, and brings us beyond the mundane. The extraordinary thing about the Frederick C. Robie House is that it manages to do both of these things at the same time: to be at once a house
for the everyday and a profound architectural experience. It transcends the contradiction that bedevils almost every iconic modern house, the sense that it is exciting to look at and to explore, but that it would be difficult, not to say impossible, to live in.

—Paul Goldberger, from the Introduction to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House

2010 is the 100th birthday of one of the most important buildings of the 20th Cnetury, the Robie House in Hyde Park. Presented with a challenging, narrow lot by a client with an engineering background and and a budget equal to his vision, Wright designed one of the last of his Prairie Style homes — the definitive statement of his ideals of a new American architecture, free of the outdate ideas of the past and the alien landscape of Europe.

Under the sure hand of the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust the house has undergone a dramatic restoration. Original furnishings have been recreated, the windows carefully restored and an enclosing brick wall has been rebuilt.

To commemorate the house’s centennary, the Preservation Trust has commissioned a book, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House. The house was photographed by noted architecture photographer Tim Long with an introduction (“The Robie House: Embracing Modernism”) by Paul Goldberger, architecture critic for the New Yorker. The book has 48 pages, includes historic photos, floor plans and original drawings. (You can sample more of Goldberger’s thoughts on other Wright masterpieces by reading this , or listening to his lecture on Unity Temple here )

Despite its profile, the Robie House hasn’t been the sole subject of a book in over twenty years. Today, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House _ is the only full-color, single-site survey of the house in print. Other books provide a fuller retelling of the planning and construction of the house, but the magic of the restored Robie House is in the beautiful details — the subtle shifts in color in the leaded glass and the repetition and transformation of the geometric shapes. These small touches are as important as the larger Prairie School cues to the appreciation of Wright’s design and they are murderously hard to photograph well (I’ve tried), and these are the details captured by Tim Long; with this book, you’ll have all the photos you wish you had the skill, access and equipment to take.

At $20 the book is a good deal. If you’ve been to the Robie House, it will be a good reminder why the house is so special, and why you loved it it; if you haven’t or can’t visit the house, it will serve as an excellent visula guide to fullest and best expression of Wright’s revolutionary ideas. Wright may have shaken Fallingwater out of his sleeve, but you can see the first drafts of his masterpieces on the streets of Oak Park and Hyde Park, and this book will let you put a bit of the greatest of Wright’s early achievements on your bookshelves.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House_ is available from the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust.