Modernism in America Awards: Unity Temple
1st May 2018,
DATE: 3/5/2018
SPECIAL AWARD OF RESTORATION EXCELLENCE
Unity Temple (Oak Park, IL)
Harboe Architects, PC (Restoration Architects)


"A Special Award of Restoration Excellence is given for the restoration of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple in Oak Park, Illinois. Originally completed in 1908, Unity Temple is one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s greatest works. It is a National Historic Landmark and is included as one of the ten Key Works of Modern Architecture by Frank Lloyd Wrightnominated to the World Heritage list. His concept for the building was to create a space for both the sacred and secular which resulted in two separate masses, Unity Temple and Unity House, connected by a lower foyer. As with many religious structures, the building suffered from decades of deferred maintenance. Its plight was recognized by being included on Landmarks Illinois’ 2000 Most Endangered list and as one of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2009 America’s Most Endangered Places. Unity Temple Restoration Foundation commissioned a Preservation Master Plan to outline the work that needed to be done in 2006. In 2013, the Alphawood Foundation pledged a $10M lead gift towards the restoration and the project was begun. Harboe Architects, PC spent nearly a year conducting in-depth research and physical trial mock ups to determine the best ways to authentically restore and fully modernize this international treasure. Completed in 2017, construction took over two years and involved all aspects of the building. The restoration of Unity Temple not only returns this internationally significant work of architecture to its original appearance but gives new life to a building that will allow it to continue to successfully serve its original purpose as a house of worship for its congregation as well as a tourist destination for Frank Lloyd Wright enthusiasts from all over the world. The jury bestows this special award of restoration excellence for the high level of expertise and care that went into the restoration but also in recognition of the importance of the building to modernism that is without parallel." (Docomomo US)

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