The Prairie House in Norman. (Courtesy Photo/Prairie House Preservation Society)

NORMAN – The Prairie House in northeast Norman is about to get all the recognition and visitors it deserves as an important architectural and historic landmark.

A team of enthusiastic architects, arts enthusiasts, and enthusiasts are working to restore the Prairie House, which prominent architect and artist Herb Greene designed and built in 1961 as his own residence. He now lives in California but made Norman his home from 1957 to 1964 as a faculty member at the University of Oklahoma under another prominent nonconformist architect, Bruce Goff.

decades ago, magazine of life nicknamed Greene’s famous creation in Norman the “Prairie Chicken House” because the writer thought the unusual structure resembled a prairie chicken, although that was not its official name.

Those involved with the house and the Prairie House Preservation Society expect this to be a big draw to the area for tourists, artists and the Norman community. Late last year, the Prairie House Trust purchased the unusual two-bedroom, 2,100-square-foot home surrounded by open land and handed it over to the nonprofit to manage.

“I believe that with culture and time, that can be a real reason why people will want to come to Norman,” said Erinn Gavaghan, executive director of the Norman Arts Council. “It’s extremely important to the history of architecture at OU. We knew we didn’t want to lose this place.

Goff headed what is now known as OU’s Gibbs College of Architecture, was a contemporary of Frank Lloyd Wright, and was the leader of the architectural movement that began at OU on the prairie as from the American School of Architecture. Greene was part of this school, and his house has been only remotely celebrated in architectural circles in recent decades, as it was privately owned and a residence.

Jason Dale Pierce, board member of the Prairie House Preservation Society and St. Louis architect, said he liked the nickname “Prairie Chicken” for the “really unique” house, even though Greene doesn’t like it. do not like.

“As a designer, it starts to give people who aren’t designers a visual understanding of what this house is trying to represent,” Pierce said. “When they see this house, they can make that connection.”

The house has an organic feel, and viewers can assign it a prairie chicken or a bison or an unusual shape that blends into the prairie, Gavaghan said. The design movement continues inside with cedar shingles covering every inch of the walls and ceilings, flowing in different directions almost like ruffled feathers.

In Greene’s words, the house “created as a sculpture on the Oklahoma prairie evokes a

The interior of the Prairie House at Norman. (Courtesy Photo/Prairie House Preservation Society)

complex set of references – primordial creature, shelter, protective skin, futuristic object as elements of surprise. It’s architecture tied to the landscape of Oklahoma: grasslands, winds and distances, clouds and planes,” he said, quoted on the preservation society’s website.

The society hopes to turn Prairie House into a museum, open it for tours, host artists-in-residence, hold festivals there, and work with the OU School of Architecture on additional plans, JD Merryweather said, executive director of the company. Home visits begin next month.

The house is already listed on IconicHouses.org, a Netherlands-based site that tracks significant architectural structures around the world. The Prairie House is the only Oklahoma on his list. Merryweather plans to attract tourists exploring American Midwestern architecture or Route 66 (which is about 30 miles away). He added that he links a line of architects from Louis Henry Sullivan to Wright to Goff to Greene.

Dennis Brigham, president of the preservation society, said his favorite part of the project so far is showing the house to someone who has never seen it before. “It’s really fun to have people’s comments when they come in,” he said. “We really want to be one of Oklahoma’s signature saves.”

MORE INFORMATION

  • Website: prairiehousepreservation.org. Plan a visit there.
  • Follow @prairiehousepreservation on Instagram.
  • Catch the premiere of the new Norman Arts Council documentary starring Greene, continuum, at 7 p.m. May 21 at Mainsite, 22 E. Main St.. The documentary follows Greene’s visit to Oklahoma last year, a tour of his three remaining creations in that state. Watch mainsite-art.com or normanarts.org for further details.

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