Art and architecture in Chicago

Sunday 9 to Wednesday 12 August

Our first requirement in Chicago was to visit one of the famous Frank Lloyd Wright homes in Oak Park, Illinois. The information board out the front explains…

This complex served as Wright’s primary residence, studio and architectural laboratory during the first 20 years of his career from 1889 to 1909. Wright raised six children here with his first wife, Catherine Tobin, and designed such famous buildings as the Robie house, Larkin building and Unity Temple. Many of his trademark designs can be seen in their infancy, as he experimented with concepts before sharing them with clients. The Home and Studio is the birthplace of the Prairie style of architecture.

It was a guided tour around the house, and fortunately photos were allowed. The place exuded warmth with its many wooden features and beautiful windows.

This is FLW territory and many of the houses in Oak Park were designed by him. We had time to wander around and enjoy the architecture. Information boards provided a little bit about the houses such as when they were built and who the architect was.

Our tickets were expensive, about $AUD115, but it included entrance to the Robie House in Hyde Park.

The Robie House is considered the greatest example of the Prairie School architecture. Built in 1909 for Frederick C. Robie, who was the assistant manager of the Excelsior Supply Company, and his wife Laura. They remained there for only 14 months as Robie unknowingly inherited $1 million debts after his father died in 1908.

Again, a beautiful warming house with outstanding stained glass windows. It is open for functions. For example, a two hour cocktail party will set you back $2,000 to $3,000.

Frank Lloyd Wright is one of America’s greatest heroes. The architecture is adored by the country.

We explored Grant Park on the waterfront.  It sits on the city’s edge, beside the Lake Michigan and contains within it a number of smaller parks.

We have always lived near the sea and are beach goers. We expect to find relief on hot days beside the sea. In these big cities however this is not always practical and we have found fountains of all shapes and sizes built within cities as a place to chill out. The Crown Fountain in Millenium Park was a favourite with children. The many faces portrayed on the screen sprouted water when least expected. 

Nearby was Cloud Gate which provided a lot of entertainment, as visitors tried to find the most interesting angle for selfies. It was designed by Indian-born British artist Sir Anish Kapoor and is considered to be among the greatest pieces of public art in the world.

It provides a wonderful vistoa of Chicago, reflecting the sky and the tall buildings.

We wandered around the Jay Pritzker Pavilion which is an outdoor auditorium designed by Frank Gehry and partly funded by the Pritzker family of Hyatt Hotel fame.

The pavilion sits in Grant Park which has a historic height limitation on all constructions within the park. The pavilion was categorised as a work of art to circumvent these restrictions.

We wandered down to Du Sable Harbor and the lighthouse there and got another amazing view of the city.

We took in some culture on our last day in Chicago and visited the Art Institute. My cousin Anthony had lived in Chicago for a short time and loved this museum. He told me that fortuitously it was between his home and the shops, so he just had to ‘wander through’ en route from one to the other.

We saw some famous pieces of art such as Grant Wood’s American Gothic, Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks and Charles Ray’s sculptures.

The museum has wonderful large windows, which constantly remind you that you are in this megacity.

In the evening we met a past colleague Chris and his wife Sue. Chris and I had worked closely together in my Inmatrix days, particularly on quality assurance and delivery of the Optimist financial analysis product. It was good to share our thoughts over a very cold beer and some good American food.

We had enjoyed Chicago – barely touched the sides, but Frank Lloyd Wright and the Grant Park were certainly highlights. Next stop was Detroit.