Unity Temple (1904)

Chicago, Illinois
HW #79 / Oak Park Tour #2

The second building on the Oak Park tour was Unity Temple designed for the Universalist concregation of Oak Park. Frank Lloyd Wright employs his first bipartite design in the building. He divides main spaces – the two main gathering areas, open to those entering from community events, are placed on either sides of the main sanctuary, elevated a couple steps below, with a lower ceiling. In between and above, is the double-story sanctuary that is separated acoustically and visually from the two main gathering areas. The building does not have any eye-level windows allowing to look outside, so natural light is emitted through patterned skylights and art-glass clerestory windows. The ceiling and hung lights radiate a greenish beige tone that mimics the color of nature. The open, light-filled sanctuary contrasts with the heaviness of the exterior concrete mass. Seating is arranged so that no one person is too far away from the alter. The second floor balcony seating space is located above the two main gathering areas (hence the low ceilings), on the outer perimeter of the square plan overlooking the first floor seating space, with its seats aligned within the inner square. Strong horizontal and vertical accents are apparent.