notable for its exquisite leaded- and stained-glass doors and windows. It's also
among the last of his Prairie School-style homes: During its construction,
Wright abandoned both his family and his Oak Park practice to follow other
pursuits, most prominently the realization of his Taliesin home and studio in
Spring Green, Wisconsin. Docents from Oak Park's Frank Lloyd Wright Home
and Studio Foundation lead tours here, even though the house is undergoing a
massive, 10-year restoration (the house will be open throughout the process, but
your photos might include plenty of scaffolding). A Wright specialty bookshop
is located in the building's former three-car garage—which was highly unusual
for the time in which it was built. Although I've noted that this is for ages 7 and
up, older children and teens will appreciate Robie House most. Allow 2 hours.
5757 S. Woodlawn Ave. (at 58th St.). & 773/834-1847. Admission $9 adults, $7 seniors and children 7-18.
Mon-Fri tours at 11am, 1pm, and 3pm; Sat-Sun every 1 ⁄ 2 hr. 11am-3:30pm. Bookshop open daily 10am-5pm.
Bus: 6 or Metra Electric train to 57th St. and Lake Park Ave.
Unity Temple Ages 5 & up. After fire destroyed its church around 1900,
a Unitarian Universalist congregation asked one of its members, Frank Lloyd
Wright, to design an affordable replacement. Using poured concrete with metal
reinforcements—a necessity, owing to the small budget of $40,000 allocated for
the project—Wright created a building that on the outside seems as forbidding
as a mausoleum but that on the inside contains in its detailing the entire archi-
tectural alphabet of the Prairie School that has since made Wright's name
immortal. Following the example of H. H. Richardson (of Glessner House
fame; see below), Wright placed the building's main entrance on the side, behind
an enclosure—a feature often employed in his houses as well—to create a sense
of privacy and intimacy. Front entrances were too anonymous for these two
architects. Wright complained, furthermore, that other architectural conven-
tions of the church idiom, such as the nave in the Gothic-style cathedral across
from the future site of Unity Temple, were overpowering. Of that particular
church, he commented that he didn't feel a part of it.
Yet his own vision in this regard was somewhat confused and contradictory.
He wanted Unity Temple to be “democratic.” But perhaps Wright was unable to
subdue his own personal hubris and hauteur in the creative process, for the ulti-
mate effect of his chapel, and much of the building's interior, is very grand and
imperial. Unity Temple is no simple meetinghouse in the tradition of Calvinist
iconoclasm. Instead, its principal chapel looks like the chamber of the Roman
Senate. Even so, the interior, with its unpredictable geometric arrangements and
its decor reminiscent of Native American art, is no less beautiful.
Wright used color sparingly within Unity Temple, but the pale, natural effects
that he achieved are owed in part to his decision to add pigment to the plaster
rather than use paint. Wright's use of wood for trim and other decorative
touches is still exciting to behold; his sensitivity to grain and tone and placement
More Frank Lloyd Wright Homes
In addition to Robie House, several of Wright's earlier works, still privately
owned, dot the streets of Hyde Park, such as the Heller House, 5132 S.
Woodlawn Ave. (1897); the Blossom House, 1332 E. 49th St. (1882); and
the McArthur House, 4852 S. Kenwood Ave. (1892). These homes are not
open to the public but can be admired from the sidewalk.