on February 10, 2013
We had planned to visit Oak Park while we were in Chicago but as we had given in the rental car and we were not sure how easy it would be to get from the train station to the house plus we found so many other things to see and do in Chicago so we decided not to bother.We then thought it would be a perfect place to visit on our way back from the hotel we were staying in at Elkhart Indiana as we had to be at the airport by 5 pm. This would be a perfect place to visit as it was pretty close to the airport as we wanted to be close before stopping to do things just in case there was a car problem or similar.I’ll be honest and confess to knowing very little about Frank Lloyd Wright (FLW) apart from the fact he was an architect and Paul Simon sang about him. When we were planning this trip we found a few places that he had designed and added them into our itinerary.The house and studio are in a very nice suburb of Chicago and a very residential area. It is easy to find but parking is on the street so you need to go down one of the side streets and read the signs carefully to avoid getting a ticket.OPENING TIMESThe museum shop and ticket office is Open daily, 10 am to 5 pm.The home and studio closes at 5pm on Sat and SundayThe house and studio is open daily: 11 am - 4 pm and tours take place at Weekends, approximately every 20 minutes. On weekdays they vary and from late November – mid-March they are hourly.From mid-March - mid-June they are hourly and 20 minutes past the hourFrom mid-June – August they are every 20 minutes Finally from September – late November they are hourly and 20 minutes past the hourClosed: Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and New Year's Day.They suggest buying the tickets on the website in advance but I have to say we didn’t and we didn’t have to wait long and we visited in May but that was not in the USA’s school holidays so that may make a difference.PRICES AND TOURSOn top of whatever tour price you choose you also have to pay an extra $5 per person taking photographs and this permit only allows for still photos for personal use.You can choose to just have the tour of the home and studio or you can add a walking tour of the area and the other FLW designed homes. We chose to do the home and studio tour and then bought a map with the FLW homes marked on it and walked around ourselves as we were a bit tight on time.The tour of the home and studio takes about 45-60 minutes and prices are as follows:Admission: $15 adult, $12 student (4-17) and senior (65+). There free tickets for children 3 and under. They do limit the tour group size which is good as some of the rooms are quite crowded and difficult to see the parts of interest, never mind take a photo. Everyone visiting, regardless of age, must have a ticket to enter the museum.You can save $5 when you purchase both the Home and Studio Tour and the Historic District Walking Tour.The tour of the district around is self guided with a personal player and costs $15. I am sure it is very interesting but seriously unless you are REALLY in to FLW and his architecture I think you can do a pretty good job yourself with the map they sell for a lot less money which is what we did.OUR VISITI was totally wowed by the Prairie style of architecture and loved both the houses we visited this and the one in Springfield. I am not sure I could live in them though as the furnishings don’t allow for any of your own personality as FLW is heavily stamped on every single element of the house. Everything seemed just that bit heavy as there was so much wood and very little softness anywhere. There are no scatter cushions and very little chance of anything feminine showing through. The furniture is beautiful and really fits perfectly in the house but there is a definite minimalist look to the rooms and you can’t imagine people actually living there and children playing and leaving their toys around in the playroom upstairs. This was an amazing room with glass curved ceilings so lots of natural light. It was a bit like a church cum conservatory!I would have loved the dining room furniture but it did need the high ceilings to carry it off. The dining room table is an original, quarter-sawn oak dining table and the chairs are stunningly beautiful with high spindle back chairs. They reminded me a lot of those in Charles Rennie Macintosh’s house in Glasgow. Apparently I told the people in Glasgow and they said a lot of people have said the same and yet they never met each other.I did like the amount of storage that was available and how well it was all hidden so that the wide open minimalist look was not spoiled.The studio part of the house had original draftsmen’s tables and many designs and drawings on display and once again great use was made of natural light. I also loved FLW’s beautiful light fittings and would happily have ‘borrowed’ them for my house.Apart from the house, the studio and all within it and the beautiful furniture there was a lot of artwork to see. You could see the collection of his Japanese art work and of course the sculptures created by his friend and artistic collaborator, Richard Bock. Outside the studio you can see two rock or boulder figures. They depict a man crouching and breaking free from the ground beneath him. This Symbolises FLW breaking free from the ‘normal’ rules of design and architecture of the period.Bock also created the stork capitals on the exterior of the studio and these signifies the tree of life, the book of knowledge, an architectural scroll, and two storks full of wisdom and fertility according to the blurb we read while there.WORTH A VISIT?A whole hearted yes. It was so inspirational and the guides so knowledgeable. I really felt that we were learn a lot from the guide and see so many little elements that you would probably not notice of you were looking around on your own. They do keep a close eye on the vistors so that things are not spiled by inquisitive hands touching. The limiting of photography was also good as it stopped constant flashing as we were looking around. In fact flash was not allowed I seem to recall and that is why many of mine were rather dark .I am not greatly in to architecture but I do love seeing places that are different and have a n interesting history. It is the feel of a place and the stories behind the creation that I enjoy rather than the actual place as it stands, I am not clever enough to be able to appreciate the lines and how things might be difficult to build. I just like looking at interesting and beautiful places and being inspired by their history and the people behind their creation.This tour was just right in that we were told lots of anecdotes and interesting elements in the rooms were pointed out. We were told a bit about FLW and his family and their life in the house. It all came together so that I really felt like I had learned a lot by the time we left. There was sufficient information content but without every single date and change listed. The guide was entertaining and had a friendly and chatty approach with a bit of a sense of humour too.
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