Story Published in October 2015
Sebastian Beaghen is the brilliant son of Anne-Marie Malfait. He is Belgian through his mum and English through his father. He was born in the United Kingdom. The family moved to the US when his mother got a promotion at her pharmaceutical company in 2003. They now live in Oak Park, Illinois.
Sebastian is very intelligent and mature for of his age. He has been passionate about architecture since his youngest age. He is extremely knowledgeable about his passion. His family did not choose Oak Park by accident. This town features the largest Wright-designed residential properties in the world. Frank Lloyd Wright is one of Sebastian’s favorite architects.
Sebastian volunteers his time with the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust and gives guided tours for the organization. This organization was founded by the restoration architect John Thorpe who used to live in the house Sebastian and his family now live in. I invite you to discover the interconnections between Mister Thorpe and Sebastian’s family through Anne-Marie’s story.
Sebastian gave me an architecture tour of the neighborhoods in his town. He seemed to know almost every detail about every house and behind-the-scene story that went along. With a degree in Travel and Tourism and from a curriculum including tour guide training, I was really impressed by Sebastian’s knowledge, ease and precision.
We stopped at the most famous Wright buildings in Oak Park. Every year, people journey from all around the world to visit these residences. The most famous architectural attractions are on Forest Avenue. Frank Lloyd Wright‘s studio is located nearby, on Chicago Avenue.
Sebastian explained to me that Wright’s residences were thought-provoking for his time. Wright’s designs were a counter reaction to Neo-Victorianism architecture. Some buildings, such as the Unity Temple, give the impression of being closed-off and dark inside. Sebastian told me that Wright designed his buildings to offer open space that provides natural light while protecting the privacy of its inhabitants.
Besides architecture, Sebastian loves books (a passion he shares with his mother), music and photography. He has a gifted eye for photography; his sense of composition is genuine. Sebastian has started a long term project around people sitting on the couch in his living room. He captures a portrait of everyone who visits his house and I was no exception to this rule.
The Couch Project.
Photo Credit: Sebastian Beaghen
The story behind this antique Italian couch, dating from the 30’s, is interesting. The couch was spotted in Oak Park by Sebastian’s late grandmother who fell in love with it, thinking that her daughter, Anne-Marie, should have it. Anne-Marie adores books and the built in burled-walnut bookshelves on the side would be perfect for her. But the couch was unaffordable. The antique shop eventually closed and the family forgot about the sofa.
But a few years after her mother passed, Anne-Marie discovered the exact same sofa on-line. But this time it was considerably cheaper so the family decided to get it. “This sort of lucky following of an item right back to us makes it feel very significant. It is part of why we commemorate it in the couch project.” Sebastian explains.
Sebastian has one last year of High School left before attending college. He is considering Cornell in Ithaca; Pratt in Brooklyn; and University of Southern California. These institutions are very well known for their architecture department.