December 17, 2018
While in Chicago in September I made the pilgrimage to the suburb of Oak Park and the land of Frank Lloyd Wright and where he started his practice.
Wright over his life designed some 1,100 or so buildings of which less than half were built.
I went through his Oak Park Studio which was amazing, particularly for it’s era and has been both restored and well kept.
Then I walked Oak Park and looked at some of his residences from different periods. Wrights work is exquisite even for the most economically modest of buildings of which there were a few.
The walk ended at Unity Temple, Wrights first public commission at the end of his first decade in Oak Park. The budget for the church was around $35,000.00 if you can imagine, which is why it is largely a mass exterior with stucco and uses restrained exterior detailing just at the clearstory’s. All the detail is inside and in the natural roof lights.
Unity Temple by Frank Lloyd Wright is exquisite. It had just been finished being restored again in August so we walked into a like new architecture.
I don’t know how many times over my life I have pulled out one of my books of FLW’s work and this church in particular, but it was an incredible experience to actually see it in the flesh and it exceeded my expectations. And it contains the beginnings of some of the architectural influences Wright became interested in and synthesized into his work; Meso American, Aztec and Japanese architecture etc.
Oak Park and Wright’s work is definitely a must to go and see. Particularly in June through to September.
The visit reminded me of a piece of not well known history around Wright and Italian architect Carlo Scarpa - the Masieri Memorial, in Venezia. There was also an architectural competition for a site in Venice where Scarpa and Wright competed against each and Scarpa won.
Unity Temple stands alone on it’s street in stark juxtaposition to a medieval copy of an Anglican Cathedral across the street. Quiet a dichotomy of eras.