25 October 2005

Unity Temple

Frank Lloyd Wright had what Neil Levine called a "moral scripture" above the hearth of his family home:

Truth is Life,

Good Friend, Around These
Hearth Stones Speak No Evil
Word of Any Creature . . .

Nineteen years after that home was build, Wright abandoned his family and took up with the wife of a former client. There weren't any proverbs above the hearth of the home he built with her.

During the years before all that happened Wright built Unity Temple in Oak Park, Illinois.

It was completed in 1908, and went against many of the established conventions of American church-building. Incidentally, 1908 is the same year the Model T was introduced. Juxtaposing those two images helps the contemporary viewer to understand how innovative and even strange Wright's design was. Just about everything about the church is atypical. The congregation met in square space rather than the traditional oblong basilica. In a rather clever way, the entry to the chapel was behind the pulpit, hidden from view of both the speaker and the audience. There were innovations too in Wright's choice of materials, use of space and light, and so on.

Someday, I hope to have a long layover in Chicago (or maybe a long weekend in Chicago) so that I can go see this building for myself.


Anonymous said...

A cousin of Ethan's was married in this church about 4 years ago, and it is an interesting building indeed.
We were sitting on a balcony, and watching the ceremony was sort of like watching a movie. Additionally, either there is no air conditioning, or they (unwisely) did not turn it on, because it was stifling (summer).


Matthew said...

It is certainly a very forward thinking design. Many recently constructed buildings clearly make use of similar imagery.

Mary Ann said...

Wow, did Ethan's cousin live nearby or was it a purely aesthetic decision?

I would guess that a wedding there would have to be somewhat non traditional becuase there isn't an isle to walk down.

Jennifer said...

Ah...Frank Lloyd Wright. My only architect friend is in love with this man and his creations. I know more about him than any normal, non-art girl should.

I tried to find a post I briefed about an "open" Wright house, but cycling through my web site is exhausting.