Fans of an architect who helped establish a new style of architecture are gathered in Grinnell today (Friday). Peter Burley Griffin is the great-nephew of architect Walter Burley Griffin. “The Prairie School Style refers to the first true American-style architecture,” he says. “Roughly, that took place 1890 to 1920ish.” Architect Frank Lloyd Wright was among the group and the style was distinguished by things like a central fireplace, overhanging eaves and squared-off corners. The Walter Burley Griffin Society of America is holding its annual meeting in Grinnell and the architect’s great-nephew, Peter, is the group’s president. “Walter had some very distinctive styles,” Griffin says. He was well-known in Australia and he did work in India, too. He also designed a whole neighborhood in Mason City, Iowa, that’s known as Rock Crest Rock Glen. “(It is) some of the most amazing architecture you will see and if you ever get a chance to tour the Rock Crest Rock Glen neighborhood in Mason City, it’ll knock your socks off,” Griffin says. “Walter has certainly been mistaken for Frank Lloyd Wright’s style, but if you’ll notice Walter’s windows, I would say that’s his real signature…All these houses are connected to the outside. No matter what room you’re sitting in or standing in inside the house, you are connected to the outside.” On Saturday afternoon, there will be a tour of homes in Grinnell that were designed by Griffin and other architects who developed the Prairie School style. “The attendees will get (an) excellent flavor of the work that Louis Sullivan, Walter Burley Griffin and other Prairie School-style architects…brought to a small community like Grinnell,” he says. “These are fabulous examples of their architecture.” Four speakers will lead seminars Saturday morning. A professor who Griffin describes as the authority on his great-uncle will speak. Another speaker will focus on another Prairie School architect who designed some homes in Grinnell. The City of Chicago’s cultural historian will discuss “jewel box” banks designed by Prairie School architect Louis Sullivan. And Griffin’s older brother will review their great-uncles writing. Griffin designed a drinking fountain that used to stand in Grinnell’s Central Park was torn down 40 years ago and folks in Grinnell are talking with the architect’s backers about whether to build a replica of that fountain in Grinnell. For more information about the Walter Burley Griffin Society of America, call 641-236-6555 or 641-236-1626. The group held its 2003 annual meeting in Mason City.
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