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Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and studio gets new John Ronan-designed visitor center

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The project will add 20,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space to the Oak Park landmark

Courtesy John Ronan Architects

Frank Lloyd Wright’s popular home and studio in Oak Park, Illinois, is getting a new visitor and education center designed by Chicago firm John Ronan Architects, the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust announced Monday.

The upcoming facility will include roughly 20,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space for the thousands of students and architecture fans that flock to the National Historic Landmark each year. The project will provide a plaza, conference room, design classrooms, exhibition spaces, and administrative offices.

Wright designed the original 1889 structure on Chicago Avenue as a personal residence and later expanded it to include a studio where he and his pupils drafted many of the architect’s iconic designs. The nonprofit Frank Lloyd Wright Trust owns, maintains, and operates the site as a museum and a base for tours exploring Oak Park’s historic district.

Although modern in its appearance, the understated addition avoids detracting from Wright’s creation. “The design challenge was how to put a building on this very important site that is architecturally significant in its own right without upstaging the building that everyone came to see,” architect John Ronan told Curbed Chicago.

The low, single-story concept continues an existing brick wall that snakes around the site like a jacket of a book, according to Ronan. It uses neutral, buff-colored masonry custom designed for the project that’s reminiscent of the Roman style bricks that Wright used in many of his Prairie School designs. “To me, it almost feels more like a piece of site infrastructure than a competing building,” added the designer.

Ronan’s proposal won out against competing designs from firms Krueck + Sexton, Perkins + Will, Pappageorge Haymes, and Vinci Hamp Architects. Plans for the new visitor and education center are currently being reviewed by the Village of Oak Park, according to a statement from the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust.

John Ronan Architects
John Ronan Architects