An Architect at Home

Works from the Collection of Donald Wrobleski

The exterior of Wrobleski's home. Photo by Juergen Nogai from Julius Shulman: Chicago Midcentury Modernism book by Gary Gand courtesy of Chicago Bauhaus & Beyond

Luckily for us all, Donald Wrobleski is happy to share his story. I first met the Chicago-based architect through a phone call while he was seeking advice on selling, and how to go about the overwhelming, stifling act of moving from the Bannockburn home which he designed and where he resided for the past sixty years. His home was like a number of architect-owned mid-century interiors I had visited, in that once a furnishing or work of art had had been carefully placed, it rarely moved.  A living time capsule, but not one that is necessarily destined for obsolescence. Rather, a finely preserved moment in time. 

The sunken living room flanked by floor to ceiling glass. Photo by Juergen Nogai from Julius Shulman: Chicago Midcentury Modernism book by Gary Gand courtesy of Chicago Bauhaus & Beyond
The furniture is utilitarian and comfortable and represents a superb period reflection of good design to live within the walls of good design.

Wrobleski designed his home in 1960 when he was just 20 years old. A former student of A. James Speyer at IIT, he created the residence to be elevated and in harmony with 1.75 acre lot located just outside of Chicago. Approaching the residence, you are greeted by a compliment of glass front to back within the fully see-through enclosure. Wrobleski’s home blossoms, trees appear to extend upward inside the house. The lines and the harmony of the interior naturally reflect the wooded surroundings. A short flight of stairs takes you to the entrance and once inside, you are naturally directed to the sunken living room nestled between the main glazing walls. There you are surrounded by an entirely global menu of design: Kjaerholm, Mies, Mackintosh, McCobb, Wegner and Aulenti for starters. The spread continues throughout the house. The furniture is utilitarian and comfortable and represents a superb period reflection of good design to live within the walls of good design. 

The exterior of Wrobleski's home illustrating an outdoor seating area. The sunken living room flanked by floor to ceiling glass. Photo by Juergen Nogai from Julius Shulman: Chicago Midcentury Modernism book by Gary Gand courtesy of Chicago Bauhaus & Beyond

Wrobleski’s deft ability to capture sunlight and warmth in his home is illustrated thoughtfully by Julius Shulman’s photography in Julius Shulman: Chicago Mid-Century Modernism by Gary Gand (2010). While I wish there was enough Wrobleski output to fill an entire monograph, we are proud to offer these lots for Don in our American Design sale.

Peter Jefferson

What finally is beauty? Certainly nothing that can be calculated or measured. It is always something imponderable, something that lies between things.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe 1886–1969

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is one of the most celebrated modernist architects of the twentieth century, known for developing the International Style in Germany and abroad, which emphasized function, balance, clean lines and the use of glass and steel.

Mies van der Rohe was born in 1886 in Aachen, Germany, a center of heavy industry. His father was a stonecutter and Mies, who was never formally trained in architecture, often worked with his father, developing his exceptional sensitivity to materials at a young age. At 15, he apprenticed with several architectural firms in Aachen, and in 1905 he moved to Berlin to work for architect and furniture designer Bruno Paul. He received his first independent commission in 1907, the Riehl House in Postdam, and it caught the attention of Peter Behrens, the most progressive architect of the era. Mies joined the firm, where he met Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius, who were also working under Behrens. From 1915 to 1918, he served in the war and, upon returning to Berlin, became involved in the very active artistic scene of the 1920s, when Bauhaus De Stijl and Expressionism were all emerging. In 1924, Mies met Lilly Reich, whom he collaborated and was involved with for many years; together, they designed the Barcelona chair, which debuted at the Mies-designed Germany pavilion for the World’s Fair in 1929 and is now regarded as one of the most iconic designs of the modern era.

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