Frank Lloyd Wright. Unity Temple, Oak Park, IL (Exterior perspective and partial plan). c. 1929-30

Frank Lloyd Wright Unity Temple, Oak Park, IL (Exterior perspective and partial plan) c. 1929-30

  • Not on view

Although this drawing of Frank Lloyd Wright's Unity Temple is inscribed with the building's completion date, 1908, the rendering itself was made years later, around 1929–30. This fact is significant because the drawing's style and the circumstances of its production relate directly to the aging architect's reputation and waning career, which, in 1930, when Wright was in his early sixties, were being challenged by a younger generation associated with the emerging modern movement that would come to be known as the International Style. That year, delivering the Kahn Lectures on Modern Architecture at Princeton University, Wright critiqued aspects of the new architecture. A small exhibition of his work that accompanied the lectures featured many of his projects from the century's first decade—including Unity Temple, an influential building that boldly broke with traditions of ecclesiastical architecture in form, materials, and symbolism. In an effort to recast Wright's work in a more modern guise, his young assistants Heinrich Klumb and Takehiko Okami prepared new drawings for the show in a bold new manner.

In this rendering Unity Temple is reduced to starkly contrasting, relatively unornamented black and white planes, and is completely detached from its context in the landscape. The drawing focuses our attention on the cubic massing of the monolithic reinforced-concrete building, the vertical and horizontal planar surfaces, and the corner piers containing the stairs, evident in the plan below. The style is a marked departure from Wright's more typical renderings, which are romantic and colorful, expressively depicting the building, its details, and the surrounding landscape. By effectively co-opting the drawing style of a younger generation of architects associated with the modern movement, Wright consciously positioned himself as a forerunner of the so-called International Style.

Publication excerpt from an essay by Peter Reed, in Matilda McQuaid, ed., Envisioning Architecture: Drawings from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2002, p. 42.
Ink and graphite on paper
23 1/4 x 34 7/8" (59.1 x 88.6 cm)
Henry Klumb, Takehiko Okami
Gift of Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, The Lauder Foundation, Leonard and Evelyn Lauder Fund, and Victoria Newhouse Purchase Fund
Object number
© 2021 Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Architecture and Design

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