Abstract: “Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple and architecture for liberal religion in Chicago, 1885-1909.”

One of the things I like about writing this blog is that I get to continually expand its scope into a myriad of topics which have, at one point or another, held my fancy. This one is, I’ll admit, a little more limiting in scope as it is an abstract I wrote about an article about famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright is know for many of his architectural achievements – perhaps the best known is the little gem in Western Pennsylvania, not far from where I grew up – Fallingwater. I shall have to post some of my pictures of my visit there some time in the future. But for now, you can see what another author had to say about Wright and some of his architecture in Chicago.


Article Title:

Siry, Joseph. “Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple and architecture for liberal religion in

Chicago, 1885-1909.” Art Bulletin 73.2 (June 1991): 257.

Joseph Siry in this article asserts that Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple in Chicago was a return to ancient temple forms drawn heavily from the architecture of other liberal churches which tried to synthesize the building structure and space with utilitarian and humanistic elements which mirrored the church’s beliefs.  Siry, in his iconographical approach to this influential architectural building, traces the influences and thinking behind turn of the twentieth century liberal religion which contributed to the design of Unity Temple.  Siry shows how other liberal church buildings were moving away from the anachronistic tendencies to build Gothic influenced cathedral-like structures with towering spires pointing towards the heavens; instead, liberal religion was starting to show their humanistic beliefs in the architecture of their new buildings.  Siry shows that Wright was intimately familiar with the design of All Soul’s Church in Chicago.  It uniquely moved away from a traditional church structure and purposefully looks very much like a house.  Wright was then involved in designing the auditorium in the Abraham Lincoln Center next to the All Soul’s Church.   The final result was a five story office building type structure with its central internal feature being a large auditorium.  Siry shows how Wright, when designing Unity Temple,  was influenced greatly by these buildings.  Wright’s final design for Unity Temple puts the emphasis on the auditorium in keeping with what was done in the Abraham Lincoln Center.   This shows how he wanted the building’s emphasis to be on the people – not on God or heaven.  This closely mirrors the ideas of the Universalists who believed that man holds divinity inside himself.  This is the point of celebration that Wright was looking for.  Siry’s meticulous research into the various designs of liberal religious buildings of the time makes a strong case that the Unity Temple is not only a unique religious building that broke from tradition, it is also a symbol of how architecture can and does reflect the beliefs of humans.

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