Wright designed a playhouse encircled by a band of stained–glass windows as an addition to the suburban Chicago estate of the industrialist Avery Coonley. Composed of brightly colored geometric motifs, these windows suggest balloons, confetti, and flags. Wright described this prominent architectural element as a “kinder–symphony.” Mrs. Queene Ferry Coonley, like Wright’s mother and his first wife, Catherine, was drawn to the educational theories and “Gifts” of Friedrich Froebel, and she commissioned the playhouse as a kindergarten for her daughter and other neighborhood children.
Gallery label from Designing Modern Women 1890–1990, October 5, 2013–October 1, 2014.
To enliven the interior of his Avery Coonley Playhouse, a kindergarten in the suburbs of Chicago for a private client, Frank Lloyd Wright designed stained-glass clerestory windows, which formed a continuous band around the top of the playroom. Each window in the series was composed of lively combinations of simple geometric motifs in bright colors. The windows were inspired by the sights of a parade, and their shapes abstracted from balloons, confetti, and even an American flag.
Wright designed the interior furnishings for almost all of his buildings, thereby creating an organic unity of the whole and its parts. Art glass was integral to the architectural fabric of many of his early works. The arranging of shapes into patterns in the Coonley Playhouse windows relates to the formal strategies Wright adopted in his architecture. His belief in the universality of fundamental geometric forms was as much a response to rational methods of modern machine production as an intuitive understanding that abstract forms carried shared spiritual values. Geometric forms had played a role in Wright’s own childhood education through a German system of educational toys, the Froebel blocks, which he later credited as a major influence on his ideas about architecture.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 83.