1905: Unity Temple – Oak Park, IL
Location: Oak Park, Illinois
By: Frank Lloyd Wright
When the original burned down in 1904, the parish called upon Frank Lloyd Wright to redesign the Unity Temple. This was no ordinary commission for FLW as he lived in Oak Park and was a parishioner of the Unitarian Church. There were several problems that needed to be overcome: accommodating for the long site, reducing the noise from the adjacent street and designing the furniture, all for a budget of $40,000.
Wright abandoned the stark white New England style of churches not only because it was more economical, but as a way to remove the traditional religious attitudes and place man at the heart of the temple. To reduce street noise, FLW removed all street level windows and instead allowed natural light to fill the space from the stained glass in the roof and clerestories. He also designed the space with varying seat levels that would fit the congregation and place no one more than 40 feet from the pulpit. “The design of the Unity Temple represents a leap forward” for Wright as it was the “first time he realized the heart of a building is its space, not its walls.”
“Why not, then, build a temple, not to God in that way but build a temple to man, appropriate to his uses as a meeting place, in which to study man himself for his God’s sake? A modern meeting-house and good-time place” – Frank Lloyd Wright