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Not Wright

Four coming out from the shadow of Frank Lloyd Wright

As Prairie school buildings age and become more precious, the architects who helped the movement evolve get more recognition. Here are four coming out from the shadow of Frank Lloyd Wright.

WHO
ACCOMPLISHMENTS
SECOND LIFE


Walter Burley Griffin
Griffin designed scores of buildings in and around Chicago, and in so doing, riled Wright unlike any other. Griffin’s charisma, good looks, and later marriage to Wright’s top draftsperson, Marion Mahony, also irked the über-architect. His name is behind the “mirror image” Gauler houses in Edgewater, the Orths in Winnetka, and the Comstocks in Evanston. This spring, the architect’s grandnephew Dustin Griffin, an NYU English professor, releases The Writings of Walter Burley Griffin (Cambridge University Press; $150). “I take some pleasure in helping my great-uncle become better known,” he says.


George Mann Niedecken
A detail man, Niedecken was a favorite of Wright’s for interior design and details. In the turbulent world that was Wright’s Oak Park studio in 1909 (after the architect decamped for Europe with the wife of a client), Niedecken helped the architects left behind continue with their commissions. Eventually Niedecken returned to his native Milwaukee. “Now we call him the quiet revolutionary,” says John C. Eastberg, who is curating a major Niedecken exhibition at the Milwaukee Art Museum through July 20th.


Richard Ernst Schmidt
The titular head of the architectural firm that included Hugh Garden and Edgar Martin, the socially suave Schmidt secured top-drawer commissions for commercial structures like the Illinois Women’s Athletic Club, the Montgomery Ward Building, and the Cook County and Michael Reese hospitals. Because his firm collaborated on Garfield Park Conservatory, Schmidt is mentioned during the institution’s centennial celebrations, which run throughout this year.


Thomas Eddy Tallmadge
Considered one of the better practitioners of authentic Prairie school architecture, Tallmadge chronicled the movement’s evolution in trade journals. “People like Tallmadge—who used Prairie school design with some skill—allow us to talk about the school today,” says Sidney Robinson, an author and longtime architecture professor at UIC, who now works for Taliesin, the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. Two houses that Tallmadge designed with his business partner Vernon Watson will be back on the annual Wright Plus Housewalk on May 17th.

Photography: (Griffin) Courtesy National Library of Australia, (Niedecken) Courtesy Milwaukee Art Museum, (Tallmadge) Courtesy of Wright Housewalk


 

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