Architectural Styles

Prairie

Prairie

Also known as: Prairie School

Prairie style originated in Chicago and represents one of the few indigenous styles of American residential architecture. Primarily the work of a group of visionary Chicago architects taught, employed or influenced by the Chicago architect, Louis Sullivan (though he himself was not really a participant in this style), the style became to be known as the “Prairie school”. Frank Lloyd Wright is widely considered the master of the Prairie style. The style emphasizes horizontal lines, low pitched or flattened roofs, open plans, natural materials, contrasting wall materials, solid construction and decorative elements emphasizing both simplicity and craftsmanship. An emphasis on the building’s interaction and role in the surrounding environment was a basic tenement of the Prairie School. The Prairie school aesthetic and use of Arts and Crafts décor and carpentry was a perfect fit for a generation brought up during the Arts and Crafts movement. The style primarily existed from 1900 to 1920 and while widespread during its day, it was a short-lived style of architecture. In large part, its popularity in and outside of Chicago was made possible by the publication of pattern books detailing style elements that could easily be used and copied by architects, builders and craftsmen far and wide.

Prairie homes are typically homes with low-pitched hipped roofs. The eaves of the roof often overhung well past the building walls. Most typically, they were two-story homes, but often employed wide porches, carports, or areas of single-story construction with their own hipped roofs to emphasize flatness. Horizontal lines are a focused theme on many homes. Windows are typically grouped together in tight vertical patterns to form a large horizontal feature. Massive square, rectangular, or pitched piers of masonry, brick or wood are common element in many Prairie homes.

Prairie style homes are found throughout the Midwest, and the style is intermingled, influenced by, and influencing on many other Chicago housing types, particularly the American Foursquare, the Bungalow and the multi-unit brick flats.

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