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Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Chicago: Frank Lloyd Wright 4

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The last stop on our FLW pilgrimage was his groundbreaking Unity Temple. Wright came from a Unitarian family “which faith then had many beliefs in common with Universalism.”

Unity Temple: architect Frank Lloyd Wright

Wright used the corner lot to good advantage: the front of the building is on a busy street. The entrance is on a side street, to a lobby (or loggia) which separates the two functions of the building. The sanctuary, for worship, on the front and a meeting room with offices above at the back for social events.

Unity Temple: architect Frank Lloyd Wright

The high blank wall reduces the amount of noise that penetrates into the sanctuary. The building is mainly built of concrete poured on site, which was cheap. The moulds were used multiple times for repeating walls with similar dimensions.

Unity Temple: architect Frank Lloyd Wright

Unity Temple: architect Frank Lloyd Wright

Unity Temple: architect Frank Lloyd Wright

Wright also designed all the fixtures and fittings, using the same theme.

Unity Temple: architect Frank Lloyd Wright

Natural light comes from the ceiling and a clerestory.

Unity Temple: architect Frank Lloyd Wright

Unity Temple: architect Frank Lloyd Wright

Unity Temple: architect Frank Lloyd Wright

Unity Temple: architect Frank Lloyd Wright

Unity Temple: architect Frank Lloyd Wright

Unity Temple: architect Frank Lloyd Wright

Unity Temple: architect Frank Lloyd Wright

I am not going to just stick in more quotes from the wiki article – though I do recommend you read it.

My first impression of the building was, I confess, unfavourable. But having walked around it and listened to the recorded guide I think I understand it better. The “compression and release” concept is on display here. You can’t just walk in the front door, you are sent around to the side and then fed through a lower level before you emerge into the sanctuary for your “wow” moment. Very cleverly, the congregation can leave through swing doors (that are not apparent in the loggia) either for a speedy exit or for some socializing in the smaller space behind. I liked the democratic layout of the seating: no-one is more than 40 feet from the pulpit. There are several levels of seating but all have an equal prominence. It is very quiet inside the sanctuary, despite all the tourists. By the way the cost of three self guided tours for us came to CAN $37.28. If we had waited for an actual guide it would have been more, but I think this might be a better way to do it.

It is also fair to say that cheap construction meant that the congregation has had to find funds for some considerable renovations to the structure – walls and roof. I don’t know much about Unitarian Universalism and I am not really fussed about finding out. But it is worth noting that the congregation really liked what Wright achieved here.

OK here is the kicker quote from wiki

Unity Temple is considered to be one of Wright’s most important structures dating from the first decade of the twentieth century. Because of its consolidation of aesthetic intent and structure through use of a single material, reinforced concrete, Unity Temple is considered by many architects to be the first modern building in the world.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 22, 2018 at 9:42 am

Posted in architecture

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