Critics say church expansion plans undermine Wright's.......

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therman7g
Posts: 263
Joined: Mon Jan 24, 2005 11:14 am
Location: Illinois

Critics say church expansion plans undermine Wright's.......

Post by therman7g »

By WHITNEY GOULD

wgould@journalsentinel.com



Posted: Aug. 19, 2006



Oak Park, Ill. - How do you add on to a Frank Lloyd Wright church? Should you even try? And whose interests should come first: those of a congregation, or those of the worldwide community of Wright devotees trying to protect his legacy?



Journal Sentinel:

http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=485889

DamiensGreve
Posts: 29
Joined: Sun Jan 09, 2005 9:00 am

Post by DamiensGreve »

I'd heard things were in the works for the Unitarian Meeting house, but not Unity Temple. Sounds like they're trying to do something more sensitive for Unity--have the addition separated from the main building (thank Frank!) so that it doesn't detract. Having been in that building several times, I disagree with what Jarosz at UW-Milwaukee said: "Are you forcibly going to make a church obsolete because you worship the architect?" The building's power stands on its own and is one of the most beautiful, and sacred, spaces I've ever been in. It could have been designed by Mickey Mouse, for all I care. Its power is what will make it a living design for a religious congregation, particulary Unitarians (I can't imagine a Catholic congregation buying it and putting up crosses inside, for instance).



Then again, I'm not in the Unity Temple congregation so I don't know how dealing with the needs of the congregation can square with the needs of the building. It would lose something if it were just sold to a preservation society and became a museum.



As for the Unitarian Meeting House, there are problems with the idea of the expansion. Like Unity Temple, they're also pressured for space, both acreage and because of the size of the congregation. Then, after all this, they get a design that only seats 400? At maximum seating, that's still 3+ church services a weekend that are needed for a congregation of 1,400 in full attendance.

EJ
Posts: 240
Joined: Thu Jan 13, 2005 8:24 pm

Post by EJ »

Subtraction by addition?

Critics say church expansion plans undermine Wright's architecture

By WHITNEY GOULD

wgould@journalsentinel.com

Posted: Aug. 19, 2006

Oak Park, Ill. - How do you add on to a Frank Lloyd Wright church? Should you even try? And whose interests should come first: those of a congregation, or those of the worldwide community of Wright devotees trying to protect his legacy?





The Unitarian Meeting House west of Madison in the village of Shorewood Hills was completed in 1951.



Designed for a 125-member congregation, the Unitarian Meeting House has a congregation serving 1,400 members, in addition to 500 children.



Photo Slideshow: Unitarian Meeting House and Unity Temple

View as a gallery



Quotable

You have no more right to add on to these buildings than the Taliban did to blow up those Buddhas.



- Nicholas Olsberg,

Wright scholar



Are you forcibly going to make a church obsolete because you worship the architect?



- Matt Jarosz,

UWM architecture teacher



Those questions are at the center of controversies swirling around proposed expansions of two iconic Unitarian churches that the Wisconsin-born master builder (1867-1959) designed at opposite ends of his long career: Unity Temple in Oak Park, Ill., which opened in 1908, and the Unitarian Meeting House west of Madison, completed in 1951.



Both are National Historic Landmarks. Both congregations have outgrown their spaces. And both are struggling with how to maintain the integrity of Wright's pioneering architecture and serve the needs of living, breathing congregations.



Some experts, such as John Thorpe, a restoration architect in Oak Park who has worked on many Wright buildings, think there is a way to strike a decent balance.



"These buildings are not sacrosanct," he says. "You can do sensitive additions." But the Madison plans are falling short, says Thorpe, who reviewed them.



Others doubt that either church can do right by Wright.



"You have no more right to add on to these buildings than the Taliban did to blow up those Buddhas," says Nicholas Olsberg, a Canadian Wright scholar, referring to the 2001 destruction of ancient monuments in central Afghanistan. "These are world heritage sites. The congregations that occupy them don't own the heritage of these buildings."



Here is what the churches are wrestling with:



Unity Temple. Built on a tight corner in the suburb west of Chicago, where the young Wright had his home and studio and designed many of his seminal works, the rigorously geometric bulwark mimics the shape of a Greek cross, with flat, cantilevered roofs and a rough, reinforced concrete skin. The light-filled interior, with its art-glass clerestories and skylights, was meant to evoke "a happy cloudless day," in Wright's words. It is intimate, rational and soul-stirring at the same time.



The congregation today, with 450 members, is only slightly larger than the one for which Wright designed the church. But it desperately needs additional space to accommodate the more than 200 children in its religious education programs, according to its pastor, the Rev. Alan Taylor. Space for support services is also tight.



To help them think through the options, members of the congregation invited Matt Jarosz, who teaches architecture at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and heads its Historic Preservation Institute, to put his students to work on expansion concepts. The students came up with a wide range of ideas, all of which would involve moving a historic building next door, which the church owns, and most of which avoid touching the church physically.



One idea put a glassy Miesian addition on the site of the historic house, with an underground connection to the temple; another proposed an all-white, porcelain-clad box,
"It all goes to show the danger of entrusting anything spiritual to the clergy" - FLLW, on the Chicago Theological Seminary's plans to tear down the Robie House in 1957

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