The works of these architects are usually marked by horizontal lines, flat or hipped roofs with broad overhanging eaves, windows grouped in horizontal bands, integration with the landscape, solid construction, craftsmanship, and discipline in the use of ornament. Horizontal lines were thought to evoke and relate to the native prairie landscape.
The term "Prairie School" was not actually used by these architects to describe themselves (for instance Marion Mahony used the phrase The Chicago Group); the term was coined by H. Allen Brooks, one of the first architectural historians to write extensively about these architects and their work .
The Prairie School is most associated with a generation of architects employed or influenced by Louis Sullivan or Frank Lloyd Wright, but usually does not include Sullivan himself. Although the Prairie School originated in Chicago, some Prairie School architects moved away spreading the influence well beyond the Midwest. A partial list of Prairie School architects includes:
The Prairie School houses (open plans, horizontality, natural materials), were related to the American Arts and Crafts movement (hand craftsmanship, simplicity, function) an alternative to the then-dominant Classical Revival Style (Greek forms with occasional Roman influences). The Prairie School was also heavily influenced by the Idealistic Romantics (better homes would create better people) and the Modernist Movement. Particularly the Minimalists (less is more) and Bauhaus (form follows function), which was a mixture of De Stijl (grid-based design) and Constructivism (which emphasized the structure itself and the building materials), were influenced by the Prairie School.
Architectural historians have debated the reasons why the Prairie School went out of favor by the mid-1920s. Perhaps a serious consideration of one of its own members would be worth their serious attention. In her autobiography, Marion Mahony Griffin writes:
''The enthusiastic and able young men as proved in their later work were doubtless as influential in the office later as were these early ones but Wright's early concentration on publicity and his claims that everybody was his disciple had a deadening influence on the Chicago group and only after a quarter of a century do we find creative architecture conspicuously evident in the United States.
An example of Prairie School architecture is the aptly named "Prairie School," a private day school in Racine, Wisconsin designed by Taliesin Associates (an architectural firm originated by Wright), and located almost adjacent to Wright's Wingspread Conference Center. Mahonly's and Griffin's work in Australia and India, notably the collection of homes at Castlecrag, New South Wales, are fine examples of how the Prairie School spread far from its Chicago roots. Isabel Roberts' Veterans' Memorial Library in St. Cloud, Florida, is another.