From Apprentice to Master
The right training can help you accomplish your goals. If your dream happens to be designing and building your own home, what better teacher to have than Frank Lloyd Wright?
Photograph by Jon Cancelino
Robert Rasmussen realized his dream very early in life. He built his amazing home in Lake Forest with his own two hands. Framing, carpentry, millwork, and masonry—every aspect of his home bears his own imaginative fingerprint. He and his wife, June, first bought the property in the mid-1960s when the areas surrounding East Old Elm Road were nothing but woods. Robert would work all day for Coder Taylor Associates in Kenilworth as a construction supervisor, arrive at his Lake Forest building site at 5 p.m., and work by himself until 11 every night. After three years, Robert and June were able to move in, but Robert didn’t stop there. He went on to build the furnishings inside their new home.
Taking a tour of the finished house is astonishing. The structure is perfect in every unique detail, from the long arcing hallway with the built-in storage, to the circular rooms adorned with curving furniture. The furnishings reflect the rooms, which reflect the overall home. The house is a brilliant example of a unified living space, both strikingly original and comfortable at the same time.
“I designed this house by following the philosophy of Laotz. You start out with your design and every part has to behave in accordance with the pattern of the whole. This house is all circular,” says Robert.
Robert first learned of the architectural implications of Laotz philosophy during his time as an apprentice with Frank Lloyd Wright in the late 1950s. The Wright fellowship gave him keen insight into designing environment reflexive living spaces and an intimate look at Wright’s professional methods.
“He never demanded that you do anything. He set an example and you followed it. Deeds speak. He worked long and hard. He didn’t say you had to. He’d always say, ‘Boys, the architecture’s here. It’s up to you to get it.’ The harder you worked, the more you got out of it,” says Robert. “Mr. Wright was a wonderful person. He treated me really well and so did Mrs. Wright. They were very good to me. I think it’s a shame that no one has ever written a story on Mr. Wright’s wonderful sense of humor. They always make him so serious and arrogant. He wasn’t arrogant at all. He was just a down-to-earth guy.”
Robert took the principles he learned from Frank Lloyd Wright and built his home so true to those ideals that it’s one of the stops on a tour of homes built by Wright. Every other year, he and June would open their door to Wright enthusiasts and offer them cocktails and a buffet-style dinner. But as he continued to craft beautiful, one-of-a-kind designs for new homes, he found that people were moving away from building something unique. Instead, homeowners were asking him to design standard two-story houses and faux-French mini-mansions. But the thought of designing those made his heart sink. Robert then made a career as an architectural and construction consultant for banks and lenders with his company R. R. Rasmussen and Associates. Despite the number of unrealized designs for beautiful homes he has in his studio, Robert has applied his philosophy on architecture to his way of life.
“All the parts must behave in accordance with the pattern of the whole. If all the parts in your own life behave in that pattern, it’s a nice life. If your family and community behaved in that pattern of the concept of the whole, look how nice the world would be,” explains Robert. “What really provides happiness to anybody? You can go out and buy yourself a new car, but that doesn’t really make you happy. Happiness comes from the fulfillment of duty. Fulfilling your duty takes wisdom, humanity, and courage. If you integrate that into the pattern of the whole, life gets pretty easy, and I think you could find pretty good happiness there.”
Robert still loves designing unique buildings for those who love to live integrated with space and detail.
For more information, visit R. R. Rasmussen and Associates online at www.rasmussenandassociates.net.