Unity Temple

Frank Lloyd Wright 1905-1908

This gem is what some would argue is Wright’s best public work. Commissioned by the Oak Park Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Wright convinced the client to abolish ideals of the little white New England steeple as proper form for a church. Instead of imitation, he proposed a building that would emphasize the presence of God in the gathering of people. The result is a sacred space with introspective central rooms protected by solid walls, all at once intimate and monumental, solitary and communal, human and spiritual.

The Unity Temple is constructed out of reinforced concrete due both to budget restrictions and Wright’s eagerness to experiment with new materials. It was one of the first buildings to do so in North America; Wright used exposed concrete externally to define mass and volume, and internally as floating planes to define spaces. This complex dialogue between inside and outside for Wright was central to his architectural theories of the interior unfolding truthfully outward and expressed itself in materials, form and experience

Wright also wielded his virtuosity with light and dark, compression and release, and play with geometry to give meaning to humble human acts. For example, there are multiple dark entries into the temple to allow the solitary, perhaps tardy, worshipper to enter without being noticed. The dark entrances then ushers the worshipper into a jewel-box space, lit from above and facing others in the parish in a democratic, communal box. The geometries that pervade the building are repeated throughout and unified at the altar, highlighting its importance.



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