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Old BBC Documentary Lavishes Attention on Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House

Now available online, the 1975 doc explores the house before its restoration and just after it became a landmark.

Courtesy of Amanda Kolson Hurley, I came across a wonderful thing: a thorough old BBC documentary about Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House in Hyde Park.

It was put online by the Canadian Centre for Architecture, and it’s part of a documentary series on architecture and design developed by the Open University, a Labour Party experiment in distance education. (It was aired in 1975, just four years after the house was named a Chicago landmark following threats of demolition in 1941 and 1957.) As such, it comes off a bit dry, but it’s also a loving history of the house, beginning with the development of Wright’s Prairie Style as his work matured, culminating in his South Side masterpiece.

And it’s seen through the eyes of Frederick C. Robie, a mere 28 years old when he commissioned Wright. He made distinct requests for how the house should function, which Wright easily absorbed into his Midwestern-meets-Japanese aesthetic (the latter informed by the Columbian Exposition, 15 years before Wright began work on the Robie House). As the film moves inside, it lavishes attention on the details, showing the miracles Wright worked with Robie’s requests.

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