We are pleased to announce plans for a new state-of-the-art Visitor and Education Center, marking a milestone for the Trust, founded 45 years ago. The expansion will strengthen our relationship to the community, deepen its educational impact, increase indoor and outdoor capacity by more than 20,000 sq. ft., and enhance the experience of the 90,000 visitors to the Home and Studio site each year.
Architect John Ronan, who also designed Chicago’s Poetry Foundation building, was selected as the architect of the expansion. Other finalists were Krueck + Sexton, Pappageorge Haymes, Perkins + Will and Vinci Hamp Architects. “This is the most important initiative since the Trust’s founding and restoration of the Home and Studio. It will ensure that Wright’s legacy remains vital to future generations. Ronan’s proposal was chosen for its design simplicity, quiet presence within the site, and use of materials referencing the site and surrounding neighborhood,” stated Board Chairman Bob Miller.
The new Visitor Center will be a public arrival point and will consist of a Reception Hall with audio-visual programming, an information and ticketing area, visitor amenities and a shop. A wooded outdoor plaza will extend from the Visitor Center to Chicago Avenue and connect to the historic grounds of the Home and Studio, combining an open grassy lawn with hard surface walkways and terrace areas. The combined Visitor Center and plaza will accommodate an array of special events including lectures, receptions and other community and educational gatherings in partnership with area schools and businesses.
A new Education Center will include a design studio for student and family classes with an area for students’ art display and works by area artists and designers. A conference room with private reception area will be a premier space for educator meetings, academic forums, young leadership summits, seminars and special-interest group discussions.
A library and center for curatorial research will be adapted from Trust offices, currently housed in an 1860s residence that was the home of Wright’s mother. The Home and Studio garage will become a gallery for the Trust’s permanent collections, enriching the historical and artistic content of tours. “The new Center will be a building of architectural importance set gracefully into the context of a beloved historic site and neighborhood. It is a natural next step into a bright future for Oak Park,” said Celeste Adams, Trust President & CEO.
The plan will be submitted for review to the Village of Oak Park for its consideration of alterations and improvements to the Trust’s property.
Site plan showing area east of the Home and Studio, with the visitor center and reorganization of existing facilities.
Elevation drawing showing (left to right) the residence at 921 Chicago Ave, the Visitor & Education Center, 931 Chicago Avenue (Wright's mother's house) and the Home and Studio.
Comments by Chicago Preservationists:
Gunny Harboe, Restoration Architect for Unity Temple and Frederick C. Robie House:
- “John Ronan’s new building is a quiet and elegant addition to the site. It blends unobtrusively into the existing context and will provide much needed education and visitor services.”
Jack Lesniak, Architect and Trust Founding Volunteer:
- “It’s appropriate now that we have a visitor and education center at the birthplace of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture. An important next step and I look forward to its completion.”
John Vinci, Preservationist and Architect of Record for Wright’s Oak Park Studio:
- “It's a perfect solution for the site, a fitting design that will contribute to Oak Park's architectural heritage."
What is the plan for the building currently at 925 Chicago Avenue?
The Trust studied the 925 Chicago Avenue building’s adaptability for public use. After extended study and deliberation, it was concluded that only a new building could meet the public access and programmatic needs required. The 925 property will be offered free to anyone who is willing to pay for its relocation. If there are no respondents, the Trust will secure Village of Oak Park permission for its removal.
Is there precedent for removal of a building in the neighborhood of the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio?
There is precedent. As the advertisement reproduced here from Oak Leaves (February, 1906) shows, Frank Lloyd Wright advertised the house at 513 Forest Avenue for complete removal or in pieces.
How long will the Center take to build? Will the Home and Studio close during construction?
Construction will be 10 months in duration. The Home and Studio will remain open with normal operations throughout construction.
Do you expect an increase in visitors?
There might be a modest increase in visitors across the Trust’s five area sites. Any increase will be managed as seamlessly as in the past without disruption to the neighborhood. The Trust expects more visitation from Oak Park-River Forest residents to engage in new educational programming and social events.
Will there be an increase in parking needs?
No, adequate parking structures already exist in Oak Park.
Will there be more tour buses?
Tour buses currently stop along Chicago Avenue and do not enter side streets where they are restricted. This policy will continue, and the Trust will work closely with the Village and Visit Oak Park on policies regarding tour buses.
What will I/my family be able to do at the new Visitor and Education Center if we are not planning to take a tour?
There will be studio classes for children and families, evening lectures, afternoon seminars, special interest group meetings, and outdoor activities. Your family might attend an evening performance by students from your children’s school.
What is the Trust's economic impact on OPRF?
A 2017 Visit Oak Park Economic Impact Study reported that tourists to Oak Park and western Cook County spent $550,000 million that year, generating wages of $110,000 million to support 4,700 jobs in this area. Travelers’ spending generated $61 million in tax revenue for state and local governments. A 2018 survey of visitors reported that 60% ate and and 40% shopped while in Oak Park.
How can we help with the project?
Become ambassadors of good will for this project and help us identify additional support. A later public phase of the campaign will describe gift opportunities from the community. At that time, please give if you can.
In the News…
"[The Visitor and Education Center] also should allow the Trust to better explain Wright’s legacy to visitors, who come from around the world."
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"Oak Park soon could be getting another architectural gem to boast about…"
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NEW YORK TIMES
“A new educational space that can accommodate lectures and classes is planned adjacent to the popular attraction in Oak Park, Ill.”
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“Thousands of visitors flock to Oak Park to see where architect Frank Lloyd Wright developed his renowned Prairie style, but there’s not a proper gateway to greet them. That may be about to change.”
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“Today, the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust announced that John Ronan will design a new visitor and education center for Wright’s famed Oak Park home and studio.”
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“Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and studio gets new John Ronan-designed visitor center”
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“The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust has announced that it is building a new state-of-the-art visitor and education center adjacent to the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio in the 900 block of Chicago Avenue.”
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“The announcement Monday that the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust has plans to construct a new visitor center adjacent to the Home & Studio on Chicago Avenue is big news. It will much improve the experience of tourists coming to Oak Park to see Wright's work and it will, likely, grow the number of tourists...”
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THE ARCHITECT'S NEWSPAPER
"John Ronan to design Frank Lloyd Wright Trust’s new visitor center"
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