From the looming, looping Guggenheim Museum in New York City to the modular Hollyhock House in LA, Frank Lloyd Wright’s oeuvre is aesthetic ambition without equal. It’s why his cluster of 29 structures in leafy, sedate western suburb Oak Park—which boasts the world’s highest concentration of Wright residences—is all the more special. Consider it but one of Wright’s many stops on an oft-evolving design spectrum. “You see in Wright a figure like Picasso in the 20th century, who moves through many different styles and periods,” contextualizes Celeste Adams, president and CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust. On May 20, Adams and company toast the 150th anniversary of the architect’s birth with the Wright Plus 150 Housewalk, boasting exclusive interior tours of 11 structures by Wright and his contemporaries that ribbon a walkable circuit off the town’s Chicago Avenue—all anchored by the master’s famous home and studio.
Befitting the milestone anniversary, this year’s housewalk ups the ante, offering a day trip to Wright’s Penwern and Black Point Estate and Gardens retreats in Wisconsin as well as opening the doors to four private, rarely seen Wright spaces, three of which reflect his work within the Prairie School aesthetic—from the sprawling roof of the Arthur B. Heurtley House to the Japanese influences of the Hills DeCaro House. Adams also singles out the Laura Gale House (“a milestone in 20th-century architecture”) as a particular can’t-miss: Featured on the housewalk for the first time since 2009, the home evokes conventional Prairie tenets—pronounced angularity, respectful integration with the surrounding landscape—while foreshadowing Wright’s future work: “[With its] two large porches that project from the front of the house, it’s sometimes seen as a prototype of Fallingwater,” notes Adams, referring to Wright’s iconic Pennsylvania retreat. The parallel underscores the event’s cachet: To tour Oak Park in 2017 is to not only experience Wright’s turn-of-the-century vision but is to be privy to his later, genre-busting blueprint for modern design and architecture.
And while the wealth of attractions is potentially dizzying (countless hours can be spent dissecting a single Wright structure, much less 11), at just a mile long the circuit can be tackled in a day—but with an estimated 2,500 ticket holders, expect to jockey with Wright worshippers for prime space. “Photos don’t do justice,” says Adams. “In the work of Frank, you have to experience the building.” May 20, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.