1981 volume 8(3) pages 295 – 323

Cite as:
Koning H, Eizenberg J, 1981, "The language of the prairie: Frank Lloyd Wright's prairie houses" Environment and Planning B 8(3) 295 – 323

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The language of the prairie: Frank Lloyd Wright's prairie houses

H Koning, J Eizenberg

Received 14 December 1981

Abstract. The following parametric shape grammar generates the compositional forms and specifies the function zones of Frank Lloyd Wright's prairie-style houses. The establishment of a fireplace is the key to the definition of the prairie-style house. Around this fireplace, functionally distinguished Froebelean-type blocks are recursively added and interpenetrated to form the basic compositions from which elaborated prairie-style houses are derived.

The grammar is based on a corpus of eleven houses from the Winslow house, the evolutionary precursor of the style, to the Robie house, considered by many as the culmination of the style.

Much has been written about prairie-style houses -- their balance, their debt to Beaux Arts and Japanese design traditions, and their organic qualities. However, such descriptions do not explicitly inform us as to how prairie-style houses are constructed, and consequently provide little help in designing new members of this style. The power of a grammar, such as the one given here, is that it establishes a recursive structure from which new designs can be constructed. Three new prairie houses generated by the grammar as well as a step-by-step generation of one of these designs are shown.

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