In mid-2019, UNESCO—the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization—added eight buildings representative of “The 20th century architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright” to its World Heritage List, including Robie House and Unity Temple.
A SIGNIFICANT ACCOMPLISHMENT
Designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site recognizes important places of cultural or natural heritage for their outstanding universal significance. Since 1972, more than 1,000 sites have been named to the list, including the Taj Mahal, Notre Dame Cathedral and Grand Canyon National Park. 20th Century architecture is represented in World Heritage sites like Bauhaus buildings in Germany and Le Corbusier’s work in France. But Wright’s buildings are the first sites of Modern architecture to be awarded this prestigious designation.
There are only 24 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the United States and only one other site in Illinois (Cahokia Mounds in downstate Collinsville). Most of the U.S. sites fit into a cultural or natural category. Again, the inclusion of Wright’s buildings is an unprecedented and hugely significant acknowledgment of Wright’s worldwide influence on the development of modern architecture.
Completed in 1909, Unity Temple in Oak Park has been described as one of the first truly Modern buildings. The use of exposed concrete on the exterior and its simple cubic forms set it apart from traditional architecture of the period. The interior worship space is painted in subtle shades of green, yellow and gold and is flooded with light from a glass paneled skylight. A two-year restoration completed in 2017 encompassed every feature of the building and returned Unity Temple to its original splendor.
Robie House, located in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, was a striking contrast to the typical home of the time. Completed just a year after Unity Temple, Robie House has a horizontal form that reflects the Midwestern landscape. The open floor plan, hidden entryway and bands of art glass windows further distinguished this Prairie Style house. Its design influenced many homes of the future. Like Unity Temple, Robie House also underwent a recent restoration with meticulous attention to detail that even brought original Wright-designed furniture and art glass windows back into the house.
The other buildings included within the designation are:
- Hollyhock House | 1909, Los Angeles, CA
- Taliesin | 1911, Spring Green, WI
- Herbert and Katherine Jacobs House | 1937, Madison, WI
- Taliesin West | 1937, Scottsdale, AZ
- Fallingwater | 1939, Mill Run, PA
- Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum | 1959, New York City, NY
TAKE A FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT TOUR!
Frank Lloyd Wright in Oak Park — Although you will not see Unity Temple or Robie House on this walking tour, you’ll get a fascinating one-hour overview of Wright’s influence in Oak Park, home to the world’s largest collection of buildings designed by the renowned architect. View the exteriors of nearly a dozen Wright structures. Departs multiple times every Sunday from 951 Chicago Ave. in Oak Park