Unity Temple
875 Lake Street at Kenilworth Ave
Oak Park
Illinois USA

Frank Lloyd Wright 1905-1908 

This gem is what some would argue is Wright's best public work. Commissioned by the Oak Park Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Wright convinced the client to abolish ideals of the little white New England steeple as proper form for a church. Instead of imitation, he proposed a building that would emphasize the presence of God in the gathering of people. The result is a sacred space with introspective central rooms protected by solid walls, all at once intimate and monumental, solitary and communal, human and spiritual.

The Unity Temple is constructed out of reinforced concrete due both to budget restrictions and Wright's eagerness to experiment with new materials. It was one of the first buildings to do so in North America; Wright used exposed concrete externally to define mass and volume, and internally as floating planes to define spaces. This complex dialogue between inside and outside for Wright was central to his architectural theories of the interior unfolding truthfully outward and expressed itself in materials, form and experience.

Wright also wielded his virtuosity with light and dark, compression and release, and play with geometry to give meaning to humble human acts. For example, there are multiple dark entries into the temple to allow the solitary, perhaps tardy, worshipper to enter without being noticed. The dark entrances then ushers the worshipper into a jewel-box space, lit from above and facing others in the parish in a democratic, communal box. The geometries that pervade the building are repeated throughout and unified at the altar, highlighting its importance.

2003 (updated 2004)


How to visit

The Unitarian Universalist Congregation still owns the building and holds services, classes and social functions in the century-old auditorium, parish house and entrance hall. A concert series also highlights local musicians and celebrates the space as a music box. The building is open for tours with a nominal fee that is used for restoration costs.

The building is open daily. For detailed information please visit the Unity Temple Restoration Foundation at www.unitytemple-utrf.org, call
+1 708 383 8873 or e-mail info@utrf.org.

Tours are self-led but you can arrange with the Unity Temple Restoration Foundation for guided tours and classes. Make sure to allow time to visit the surrounding Wright buildings; in particular take care to buy tickets for the Home and Studio tour before heading out to the temple as tickets usually sell out.

By public transit: Take the Green Line "El" to Oak Park Avenue. Walk under the viaduct, north one block to Lake Street, and west one block to Unity Temple.

By Car: From Chicago, take Eisenhower Expressway (I-290) west to Harlem Ave. and exit north (right). Go one mile (1.6K) to Lake St. Go east (right) about .5 mile (.8K) to Kenilworth Ave. and Unity Temple. We found plenty of meter parking.

The Unitarian Universalist Congregation provides information to the congregation and activities held within at www.unitytemple.org

Oak Park Visitors Bureau  has information about the vibrant community surrounding the Temple, including dining and recreation details, at www.visitoakpark.com

Books and other web sites

Click the book titles to view and to order direct from

Unity Temple: Frank Lloyd Wright 
(Architecture in Detail Series) 
Joseph M. Siry

The paperback explores the details of Wright’s building with illustrations, photographs and extensive captions.

Unity Temple: Frank Lloyd Wright and Architecture for Liberal Religion
Joseph M. Siry

The book discusses the design and construction of Unity Temple along with religious and architectural interpretation of the final work.

048628364x_m.gif (15705 bytes) Understanding Frank Lloyd Wright's Architecture
Donald Hoffmann

A highly readable, generalist account of the influences, development and innovations of Frank Lloyd Wright's architecture, well illustrated.

1568980418_m.gif (13070 bytes) Wright Sites : A Guide to Frank Lloyd Wright Public Places
Arlene Sanderson (editor)

A practical visitors' guide to thirty six publicly accessible Frank Lloyd Wright sites, with a straightforward one or two page description of each, with black and white photographs.

www.geocities.com/SoHo/1469 provides both its own Frank Lloyd Wright content and a set of links to other Frank Lloyd Wright sites on the web.

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