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Endangered Places

Posted: Tue Apr 28, 2009 11:20 am
by RA
NYTimes article. Unity Temple is noted. ... 8enda.html

Posted: Tue Apr 28, 2009 11:58 am
by outside in
I think the individuals and board associated with Unity Temple should be ashamed of themselves.

Posted: Tue Apr 28, 2009 1:24 pm
by DamiensGreve
It's saddening, but then again gives them exposure. From the people I've talked to, the people at Unity Temple (both those in the congregation & those in the restoration foundation) have been working for years trying to deal with the issues caused by an experimental, flat, 100+ year old concrete roof pierced by stained glass.

Posted: Tue Apr 28, 2009 2:22 pm
by outside in
yes, and I believe that we are all painfully aware of their ongoing "the sky is falling" approach to this problem. I understand that they have had a long list of architects, engineers and building scientists review the problem and have had numerous recommendations as to the proper method to have it fixed - so why is this building suddenly threatened? I believe the real problem is FUNDING - and in a town like Oak Park this reflects more upon the people behind the preservation of the structure, rather than the structure itself. Truly one of the great works of Architecture, the Unity Temple suffers primarily from questionable, or perhaps, incompatible leadership. I truly see this as a "stunt" that should have never been pursued.

Posted: Tue Apr 28, 2009 7:13 pm
by Reidy
Curious as to why you have such a low opinion of the people responsible for UT. I'm a longtime member of the Restoration Foundation, though I don't participate actively, and I've never heard such complaints. The attention isn't sudden in any case. The most-endangered list comes out once a year, and a site, as far as I know, can only be on it once. UT's structural problems have been legendary for years. Prairie Mod did a story on the rain damage months ago, and we talked about it here. Oak Park is a well-to-do town, but I don't think the locals have the many millions the place has needed for years.

Maybe this designation will work the same magic as it did for Ennis. The house was in much worse condition physically (acute rain damage there, too), and because of Gus Brown's lingering reputation, the people in charge after his death had credibility problems. National publicity and a new management were just what the building needed.

Jeffrey Chusid, former restoration architect at Freeman, said that nearly all the problems with Wright's buildings come from failure to account for effects of water.

Posted: Tue Apr 28, 2009 10:46 pm
by outside in
I am trying to explain that I was under the impression that the "threatened" category was reserved for buildings that were truly in need of help in the sense that they were somehow neglected, abandoned, under development pressure, demolition, unsympathetic owners, (should I go on?) and I don't think that is the case here. Instead, we have a building that is recognized internationally which is being watched after by what should be a well-organized not for profit in a prestigious, well-to-do suburb. In requesting the "threatened" status, they appear to be throwing up their hands saying "we can't do this - its too hard!" and creating a sham, of sorts, by creating hardship. I don't believe they have ever really made a strong case for what exactly needs to be done. They would be better off publishing their findings in a national magazine, etc. and marketing their case - like every other not for profit has done. Does this status really reflect the pride that they should possess in their stewardship of the property?

Posted: Tue Apr 28, 2009 10:52 pm
by Jeff Myers
Like for instance.... there is a wonderful Bruce Goff Building in Downtown Tulsa called Tulsa Club and it had neglectful owners, is under development pressure(maybe) , abandoned, neglected, and yet the Preservation well National anyway did not see that. The Tulsa Club is not registered for anything so I am trying to get information about it but have come up short. I want to save it but it looks like I will need support. The Tulsa Club is featured on the Oklahoma Endangered List.

Posted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 12:41 pm
by Paul Ringstrom
Last year Wright's Florida Southern College was on this list. This was welcomed by their new President who is very interested in historic preservation of their buildings. It helped raise their national profile and enhanced their fund raising ability.

Posted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 1:19 pm
by outside in
thank you paul - I have to say I'm a little shocked by this - I would think that calling a building "endangered" would bring into question the stewardship of the property itself - it will be interesting to see how the designation affects the ongoing preservation of the church.

Posted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 4:57 pm
by Wrightgeek
When I first heard this news, here is the response I posted on the Prairiemod website:
As mentioned, being placed on this list is a double edged sword for Unity Temple; indicative of the danger it is in, but hopefully generating enough concern and interest to move the situation in a more positive direction. If the city of Buffalo and state of NY can raise $50 million of public/private funding for the D.D. Martin campus, it seems reasonable to assume that the state of Illinois and the greater Chicagoland area should be able to generate 40% of that amount to save Unity Temple. Let's hope so.
Now, after having read all of the posts here on the chat forum, and taking some time to reflect and absorb information, I have arrived at the following. My initial reaction was that it was unreasonable to expect that any congregation would be able to generate the funds necessary to maintain and restore an iconic and historic piece of American architecture at a cost of multiple millions of dollars without local, state and/or federal aid. But once I thought about the situation a bit longer, I suddenly realized that the Unitarian Meeting House congregation in Madison, WI has done just that! Not only have they raised the funds to maintain the original building, but they have also managed to find the money to make several additions to the complex over the years, including the recently completed eco-friendly addition, to the tune of about $8-9 million dollars.

I do understand that the building in Oak Park is 50 years older than the Unitarian Meeting House, and was a more cutting edge design for its time than the building in Madison, which certainly invited more long-term maintenance issues for Unity Temple. But even taking that into account, how has the congregation in Madison been able to maintain and add onto their FLW design over the past 60 years or so, while the building in Oak Park has been plagued by maintenance issues and disrepair for as long as I can remember, which dates back to the 1980's?

As always, I welcome all comments and insights on these opinions. And though I'm sure I don't need to encourage this, feel free to disagree (or to agree, for that matter).

Posted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 5:24 pm
by JimM
Wrightgeek wrote: As always, I welcome all comments and insights on these opinions. And though I'm sure I don't need to encourage this, feel free to disagree (or to agree, for that matter).
With all due respect, the problems created by such an experimental, aged, and massive concrete structure can not be taken lightly. Walls can't be opened, boards and beams replaced, etc. The issues are obvious and long standing, but nearly impossible to deal with short of unlimited check writing. I'm not familiar with any politics or deficiency of their stewardship, but consider what was involved with addressing Fallingwater. It may be that Unity Temple is an even bigger challenge-but certainly no less important to do whatever works to save it. It's condition could be worse than is apparent.

Posted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 5:54 pm
by Reidy
If a site's management has done a fully successful job it won't be on this list at all. Short of that, bad management is only one of several reasons why it might be there; structural deficiencies, age, economic pressure, previous neglect and insufficent publicity are some others that come to mind. In UT's case I think it's the first two.

Posted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 7:13 pm
by RA

You hit the nail on the head. The design of the building and the resulting daunting task of repairing the problems trumps any of the other issues. It may be quite a while before there are state and federal funds available to assist such a project.

Posted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 9:26 pm
by Paul Ringstrom
The State of Illinois is $11 billion in debt, don't hold you breath they have more corrupt fish to fry.

The USA is in the process of quadrupling the national debt over the next few years. This does not include the Social Security and Medicare deficits that are not part of the official debt. Total debt approaches $100 Trillion.

Their best hope is an improved economy and many private donors.