Frank Lloyd Wright in the Midwest – Part 1

It probably started in December of 2016. No wait. Most probably many years before that. When I wanted to become an architect. When I bought a few architecture books at the bookstore. When the ‘bookstore’ was still a thing.

You sit down on those teal velvet armchairs or brown leather couches and start flipping the pages. The architecture is in front of you. You can touch the pages, usually thick, heavy, with perfectly exposed photos. You focus on some of the details, the commas of architecture, be it the windows, the window sills, or just the orange flower arrangement in front of a blue wall.

That’s all normal. Then there’s the abnormal. The out of the ordinary. The Frank Lloyd Wright out of the ordinary.

Years after my architecture adventure I had the possibility of visiting Frank Lloyd’s most famous house, the Fallingwater.

The Fallingwater house by Frank Lloyd Wright

Located just outside of Pittsburgh, it is a remarkable piece of art. Literally in the middle of the the woods it naturally weaves its frame and porches in and out of the surroundings.

And of course this song, by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, had to go with this post.

We walk in, with our tour, and I wish photography was permitted, but unfortunately it wasn’t. What I can say though, is that the inside had a ladder to the waterfall in the middle of the living room, low ceilings, natural rocks that made up part of the house walls, and very tight corridors and stairways. Numerous rooms upstairs, innovative vertical windows, and the wonderful balconies, which you can see from the photo above.

Born in 1867, Wright was a believer of Organic architecture, which advocated for the harmony between humanity and the natural world. Something that, one hundred years later we are still fighting against. Just look at Global Warming.

Back to Wright. Very active in the Midwest. Active to the point that there are a few other houses that I’ve visited.

The Dorothy H. Turkel House in Detroit for example. I haven’t found a way to visit it inside, most likely because it’s a private residence. But on this website I found some great photos of the inside.

Outside view of the Dorothy H. Turkel House by Frank Lloyd Wright
Inside view of the Dorothy H. Turkel House by Frank Lloyd Wright
Inside view of the Dorothy H. Turkel House by Frank Lloyd Wright

Who cares about privacy? Less and less now-a-days huh? Glass windows allover, just in case you wanted some natural lighting.

Even on a day like today, April 15th, with a grey sky and ice covered grass because of the ice rain that’s been pouring all day, there would be enough light.

And the sofas in the third picture are actually a very close resemblance of the couches in the Fallingwater house.

Fast forward to a recent trip to Chicago, March this year.

We left the house after work on Friday, headed to Grand Rapids. My father, my wife, and I. Everything in the car, tarmac once again beneath us, and ‘headed West’. For a few hundred miles, but what the heck, we were still ‘headed West’.

Grand Rapids is home to Stanley Ketchel, a Polish-American, Michigan Professional boxer of the early 20th C. Nicknamed the “Michigan Assassin” he was born in Grand Rapids. A middle-weight Champion, his career was cut short when he was assassinated at 24 in Missouri.

My father had read his book and wanted to pay his homage to the boxer. After eating at the downtown B.O.B., we parked in the driveway of the AirBnB where we were staying and called it a night. The next morning, before going to Chicago, we would go see Ketchel’s statue.

The view from our AirBnB just outside Grand Rapids the next morning
What happens to the lens when you take it from a warm environment to a cold one
A lovely morning greeting, and cookies, from our AirBnB host
An iPhone vertical panorama of Stanley Ketche’s statue
Stanley Ketchel’s statue

While everyone else was getting ready to celebrate St. Patty’s day, which will be another soon to come post, we grabbed coffee at Starbucks and then went to visit another Frank Lloyd House, the Meyer May House.

While the Fallingwater house was commissioned by the prominent business family, Kaufmann, of the Kaufmann department store, the Meyer May house was commissioned by Ms. May, of May’s clothing store in Grand Rapids.

Another jewel of the Prarie School of architecture, the house stood out amongst the neighboring Victorian style houses.

The Meyer May house in Grand Rapid, by Frank Lloyd Wright
Glass Art on the windows and doors of the Meyer May house

What caught my attention, as we were about to leave, was how the horizontal awnings, or roof-ends, matched that of the tree right behind. It was like looking at a man-made Pine tree. Maybe I was looking too hard, maybe it was intentional. Nonetheless, I found it interesting.

Finally we were on the road. Down and around Lake Michigan, headed to Chicago.

We get to our second AirBnB. Part of the St. Patty’s post to come!

Had a great day and half in Chicago and before we headed back to Detroit we stopped to tour Frank Lloyd’s Home and Studio and numerous of his other houses in Oak Park.

But all of this calls for its own dedicated entry. Here’s a preview.


Until Next Time,