Frank Lloyd Wright left his architectural mark all over the city of Chicago, but Oak Park is the place he called home.
Now offering their most exclusive tour, Frank Lloyd Wright Trust presents “Wright Around Oak Park.” This three-hour comprehensive tour presents Wright’s development as an architect, as a personal interpreter leads intimate group sizes through the Wright Home and Studio, on an expanded tour of the neighborhood where the architect lived and worked—including stops outside seven Wright residences—and on a tour of his greatest public building of the Prairie period: Unity Temple.
Starting in Wright’s Home and Studio, visitors have the opportunity to learn more about Wright as a person, an architect, and a family man. Walking through the house he designed for his wife and children, tour guides offer an inside look into how the family lived, and how the architectural design choices, such as his functionality principles and dedication to compression and expansion of space, fit their life. Beyond learning why Wright chose to build a piano into a wall so that it’s body hung above the stairs, guides also provide interesting facts on his life such as how Wright helped shape his children’s imagination with block toys, and how much Catherine “Kitty” Wright enjoyed sitting on her balcony each morning.
After the home and studio tour, the three hour exploration takes a short 15 minute break before adventuring down the streets of Oak Park. Beginning with four Wright-designed homes just next door and across the street from his own, visitors will get to see examples of Wright’s design principles, material use, and even the Japanese influence on his designs; although, as the guides joke, Wright swore any connection to Japanese style must have been something learned from him.
Finally the tour concludes with an exterior and interior look at Unity Temple. A National Historic Landmark since 1970, this is the last surviving public building from Wright’s prairie period. Promising to create a bold design on a modest budget, which in true Wright fashion he did not stick to, Wright created a unique concrete space that, despite doubt from a board member who resisted the design, offers great natural lighting and even better acoustics. Unity Temple was Wright’s contribution to modern architecture and as he remarked it made “an entirely new architecture, and is the first expression of it.” Unity Temple is currently beginning the process of restoration, giving tour participants the opportunity to hear some of the restoration decisions and plans while they explore the building.
“Wright Around Oak Park” tours are offered Monday through Saturday at 9:30 a.m. and begin at the gift shop of the Wright Home and Studio. Ticket prices are $55 for members, and $60 for non-members, and include special discount coupons to Oak Park restaurants to use for lunch after the tour ends. Tickets can be purchased online or over the phone ahead of time and picked up at the gift shop before the tour begins, which participants are recommended to arrive 15 minutes early to. Those interested in taking this tour should keep in mind that the three hour tour requires being on your feet for the majority of the time, but know the inside look is well worth it.
For more information on “Wright Around Oak Park” and to purchase tickets visit: cal.flwright.org/tours/wrightaroundoakpark