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Monona Terrace (1994)

Monona Terrace, Madison, WI
Photo Credit: Yvonne Carpenter-Ross, FrankLloydWrightSites.com

Frank Lloyd Wright, was never accused of being short on dreams and visions. From the smallest of homes to the largest of hotels and even entire cities, Wright was a master of design and was certainly far ahead of his time. One such design proposal was for a “dream civic center”. First envisioned in 1938 for Madison, Wisconsin, the civic center was to be a link between the shore of Lake Monona and the State Capitol; a gathering place that consisted of an auditorium, railroad depot, marina, courthouse and city hall.


The plan for the gracefully curving structure, submitted by Wright to the County Board, was defeated by one vote. Not easily overcome by adversity of any kind, Wright makes small changes to the plan. A bond referendum is eventually passed and finally in 1955, in what he said meant a great deal to him, Frank Lloyd Wright is approved by the people of Madison as the architect of the project. Monona Terrace would be built at its current site.

Monona Terrace in winter

Another delay in 1957 once again halts progress until 1959. Of course, any follower and dedicated fan of Frank Lloyd Wright knows that Wright passed on in April of 1959, obviously unable to see the completion of his dream civic center. There were several more stumbling blocks along the way, and it wasn’t until 1994 that voters approved a project that would take Wright’s 1959 vision and create the modern facility that now caters to meetings & conventions, weddings and other special occasions, community programs and exhibitor services. Monona Terrace has redesigned interiors, modern technology and every imaginable amenity available at the exquisitely appointed and beautiful Monona Terrace. It is truly classic Frank Lloyd Wright at his best.

Monona Terrace interior

Upon first entering the parking lot, I noticed that the parking ramps were incredibly reminiscent of the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. In fact, the Guggenheim was Wright’s last commission; it opened in October of 1959, not long after the original “final” approval of Wright’s plan for his dream civic center. Finally in July of 1997 – 59 long years after the original proposal – the Monona Terrace and Convention Center opened its doors. The $671 million cost of the project may seem excessive to some; certainly it would not have seemed so to Mr. Wright.

The scenic views from the rooftop garden (Level 6) are exceptional; enjoy a glass of wine and a sandwich at the Lake Vista Café. Take a tour. Visit the gift shop. Make certain to take time to view Pedro Guerrero’s photos on the third floor of Wright and his work. Or just gaze out from the serenity of the Grand Ballroom. This venue belongs at the top of your list of things to see in Madison; it’s a stunning building and a fun time in a fun town. If you’re looking for a place to stay while exploring the Wright sites around Madison, the Hilton Madison Monona Terrace is conveniently connected to the Monona Terrace Convention Center by a covered skywalk.


1 John Nolan Drive, Madison, Wisconsin


Guided tours of Monona Terrace are available. Check the Monona Terrace website for rates and times.


Browse these resources for more information about this FLW Building, it’s history and information about the region.

Frank Lloyd Wright and Madison: Eight Decades of Artistic and Social Interaction

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Monona Terrace: The Enduring Power of a Civic Vision

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About Me

Yvonne Carpenter-Ross

FLW Enthusiast & Webmaster

Architecture and home design have always fascinated me. As a young girl I enjoyed drawing floor plans, rearranging my parent’s furniture and playing with Lincoln Logs and Legos.  My passion has always been the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. Since I have been old enough to drive a car, I have visited Frank Lloyd Wright homes in the Chicagoland area and attended the Wright Plus house walks. Now, as co-owners of Northern Sky Designs, my husband & I are able to combine our website design skills and FLW travels to bring you this website! Enjoy!

Yvonne Carpenter-Ross