Until Covid-19, I worked for 25 years in various capacities at Taliesin Preservation, including as its historian. When asked to write something here, I remembered the connection between Unity Temple and the Hillside Home School building on Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin Estate.
At Taliesin, the one-hour Hillside tour was taught to all incoming guides, as I was in the 1990s. Hillside is where we learned that the Assembly Hall, one of its rooms, was where Wright first “broke the box” of architecture. To the rest of the Wright world, the architect first “broke the box” in the transcendent Unity Temple. Yet the Assembly Hall (designed in 1901) breaks the box by shifting the main load bearing to its corners, and two of its walls (east and south) are filled with vertical glass windows. Additionally, the room has no second floor, but a balcony on its second level, which stands at a 90-degree angle to the floor below. The room’s stone corners support this balcony, so it doesn’t touch the walls. As a result, one can sit in the room, or at its sides, and look straight up, almost two stories, to the roof.
Hillside can be seen today on Taliesin’s Estate and Highlights tours.
by Keiran Murphy
Photo by Gwen Schwanke, courtesy of Taliesin Preservation