Unity Temple is widely considered to be one of the most innovative and imaginative structure of the 20th century. It stands as the last surviving public building from Wright’s prolific Prairie period, and is the oldest Wright structure to be in the hands of its original owners and still used for the same purpose for which it was built. Its honors are many: In 1971, the U.S. Department of the Interior designated Unity Temple a National Historic Landmark. The American Institute of Architects named Unity Temple one of Wright’s most influential buildings. In July 2011, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced its intention to nominate Unity Temple, along with ten other Wright buildings, to UNESCO’s prestigious World Heritage List.
Near the end of his life, after having completed more than 1,100 designs and 532 built projects, Wright said of Unity Temple, “Unity Temple makes an entirely new architecture – and is the first expression of it. That is my contribution to modern architecture. And that, to me, is modern architecture.”
Today, Unity Temple’s condition is threatened. An early experiment in concrete construction, it suffers from a century of cracks and fissures. Water has caused the concrete and reinforcing steel in the roofs, chimney, and walls to deteriorate, and has damaged the interior finishes, obscuring the delicate and luminous painted surfaces of 1908.
In April 2009, Unity Temple was named to the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. If the building’s structural integrity is not addressed soon, this icon will be lost to future generations.