By Judy Frankel
One of America’s most renowned architects, Frank Lloyd Wright, has deep roots in the Greater Madison area. From his childhood home Taliesin in nearby Spring Green to the stunning Monona Terrace® Community and Convention Center, there are many ways to experience and learn more about this great American craftsman. Follow these tips to discover Frank Lloyd Wright’s influence in Greater Madison—and join us in celebrating his 150th birthday.
This self-guided architecture tour of Wisconsin includes some of Wright’s greatest works. The 200-mile trail starts on I-94 at the Illinois state border, travels north to Milwaukee, through Madison and ends in Richland Center, where Wright was born.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s largest contribution to the Madison area is undoubtedly the Monona Terrace® Community and Convention Center. Wright had a vision of connecting Lake Monona to the State Capitol and wanted to create a civic center to bring together the citizens of Madison. This building, with its fluid, curvilinear design is reminiscent of one of Wright’s more notable structures-- the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. The Monona Terrace® is a graceful structure spanning 90 feet out over the lake, with panoramic views and a walkway linking to the Capital Square and downtown Madison.
Visit this iconic building for a number of free events including concerts or family-friendly activities like Moon Over Monona Terrace. If time permits, be sure to take the guided tour to learn more about Wright’s architectural style, his vision for the space and why it took 59 years to build (he drafted the plan in 1938 but it wasn’t completed until 1997).
On the fourth level, visit “Beyond the Drawing Board: The Journey of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Monona Terrace,” a gallery that includes photos, videos and artifacts including a set of china from Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel which Wright designed in 1923.
PRO TIP: Grab a snack or lunch at the rooftop Lake Vista Café to experience the majestic views of Lake Monona. You’ll gain a deeper appreciation for Wright’s philosophy of organic architecture and experience sensational locally-sourced food as well.
The First Unitarian Society Meeting House is another excellent example of Wright’s work. This house of worship is still in use today, as the congregational home for the Unitarian Universalists and Madison Reconstruction. The Friends of First Unitarian Meeting House are proud of the legacy of their building and gladly share it with the public. Weekday tours are offered twice daily, May through September, and free tours are offered year round after Sunday services.
There are many other houses and properties designed by Wright in the Greater Madison area. Many of the homes are privately-owned and cannot be entered, but the exterior provides insight into Wright’s various architectural styles.
PRO TIP: Safety first. Keep your eyes on the awe-inspiring architecture and leave the driving to someone else. Hire Madison City Tours for a two-hour driving tour of Frank Lloyd Wright properties in and around Madison. Their knowledgeable guides will enlighten you with their depth of information on Frank Lloyd Wright and the history of these homes.
Events for Frank
From Coops to Cathedrals Exhibit Opening
Kids can immerse themselves with nature, experiment with materials and design their own models at From Coops to Cathedrals, a new exhibit at Madison Children’s Museum. The exhibit celebrates the nature, childhood and architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright.
Bach Dancing and Dynamite Summer Concert Series
For its 26th season, the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society brings world-class musicians to Taliesin’s Hillside Theater for a three-week summer concert series.
For more information on Wright's local work, check out Visit Madison.