The style now known as the Prairie School originated with the Boston-born architect Louis Sullivan, who conceived the idea of an authentic American architecture suited to the needs of people living in the modern age. Sullivan thought that a building should reflect the place and time in which it was built-not some long-gone historical period-and be sympathetic to its site and natural surroundings. His designs consisted of organic abstracted plant motifs, such as those seen on the architectural fragments that are originally from several of his buildings.|
Sullivan inspired a younger generation of architects to apply his organic principles to all types of buildings, with an emphasis on residential architecture. These architects included Frank Lloyd Wright, George Grant Elmslie, William Gray Purcell (all three worked for Sullivan at one time or another), and George Washington Maher. Between the years 1895 and 1918 they applied Sullivan's "system of ornament" throughout their buildings-in art-glass windows, custom furnishings, and integrated artwork. Wright coined the term "Prairie School" in 1936, chiefly to describe his work between 1893 and 1910. It then was adopted by later scholars to distinguish the work of Sullivan's followers from that of Sullivan himself.
The Prairie School is now considered the most original and important contribution to American architecture. Although an American movement, it was part of a larger international effort to redefine architecture and design. The progressive work of these men parallels that of other avant-garde architects and designers of the time such as Josef Hoffman of Austria and Charles Rennie Mackintosh of Scotland. see objects >