Unity Temple in Oak Park, Illinois

“Architecture is about space, not walls.” That was what Frank Lloyd Wright said he learned from designing his first public building, Unity Temple in his then-home of Oak Park, Illinois. And the building shows what he learned.

The Universalist Church of Oak Park had been struck by lightning and burned to the ground in 1905. When it came time to build its replacement, Wright was awarded the commission.

Inside, there are two separate spaces—one for worship and one for social gatherings. Both are lit by skylights and connected by a central entrance hall. With two stacked balconies on three sides of the auditorium, several hundred members of the Unitarian Universalists congregation can be seated within 40 feet of the pulpit. The building is also one of the first to have all-concrete construction, giving rise to the “modern” architecture of the early 20th century.

Ironically, this all-concrete construction appears to have resulted from the financial limitations Wright faced in the project. He had just $45,000 to complete the project, and as he has been quoted saying, “concrete is cheap.”

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