Eagles Nest Architecture Series: Prairie-Inspired American Craftsmanship

Presented By: Eagles Nest Architectural Committee

Prairie architectural style developed in the late 19th and early 20th century as a movement of Midwestern American architects to create an indigenous American style reflecting American handcrafting without the design influences of European classical themes. The most notable architect of this style was Frank Lloyd Wright, who worked and resided at his Taliesin West studio in Arizona.

Prairie American Architecture

Architects who developed this style felt that a horizontal orientation was a distinctly American design motif, since the young and expanding country had more wide-open land than urbanized European nations.  The style became known as “prairie” due to its strong horizontal line nature evoking the native prairie landscape.  It is typically integrated with the surrounding landscape to look as if it belongs on the site, “as if it naturally grew there,” according to Wright.

Prairie American Architecture

Prairie architecture is characterized by:

  • Open floor plans for flexible uses and utilizing a great deal of natural light;
  • Flat or low-pitched, hipped roofs with broad eaves;
  • Solid, grounded massing with strong horizontal lines presenting an image of sturdy rectilinear craftsmanship;
  • Broad, covered porches;
  • Simple building materials of plaster (stucco), wood, brick or stone;
  • Muted colors drawn from the surrounding natural environment;
  • Casement windows often with clerestory windows (a band of high, narrow windows);
  • Rectilinear entry doors of wood and glass (sometimes stained with geometric patterns) and usually understated or hidden from the main street view.

Prairie American Architecture

The philosophy reflected in prairie style architecture was a precursor to other contemporary American designs, and even older examples have a distinct contemporary feel even today.  Prairie architecture was integral in defining uniquely American designs and craftsmanship of the Midwest; and the historic design influence in Arizona, especially through Frank Lloyd Wright, makes it a very appropriate style for custom homes in Eagles Nest.