OAK PARK, IL (July 25, 2017) —TAWANI Foundation has made a $1 million major gift and a $1 million challenge grant to support the $25 million comprehensive restoration of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple in Oak Park.
The restoration of Unity Temple was completed in early June, just in time to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Frank Lloyd Wright’s birth. It has left almost nothing untouched in this National Historic Landmark and one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most notable public buildings. It is considered by many architects to be the first modern building in the world.
Ms. Pritzker, a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Illinois Army National Guard and TAWANI Foundation’s president and founder is a prominent entrepreneur and celebrated philanthropist. One of the TAWANI Foundation’s primary interests is community-based restoration projects and it provides support for preserving unique sites of significance to American and military history.
“The Unity Temple has been an important part of Oak Park for decades, and we’re thrilled that our gift has succeeded in returning one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most iconic buildings in history to its original beauty and grandeur,” said Colonel Pritzker. “TAWANI Foundation takes seriously its responsibility to preserve and restore unique, historic sites that reclaim celebrated landmarks in our communities. This project underscores that commitment.”
Unity Temple—which Wright himself called “my contribution to modern architecture”— was constructed from 1906-1908, and while some restoration and minor repairs have been done to the building over the years, this is the first comprehensive restoration and includes work on both the exterior and interior. The project began in spring 2015.
Unity Temple Restoration Foundation (UTRF) is responsible for the fundraising campaign.
“We could not be more honored than to have Colonel Pritzker’s philanthropic commitment, especially because of her long-standing interest, enthusiasm and investment in preserving historic structures of national and international architectural significance. That she has selected Unity Temple as the recipient of her generosity, is an imprimatur that will hopefully inspire others to make gifts that will be matched dollar for dollar by the TAWANI Foundation and help us fulfill the financial obligations still pending for the restoration of this iconic building,” said Heather Hutchison, executive director of UTRF.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple is an architectural masterpiece, embodying the bold elegance, visionary experimentation and functional integrity that characterize modern architecture. Wright designed the building to house two distinct spaces: Unity Temple, a four-level cubic auditorium (sanctuary and worship space) in the north wing, and Unity House, for the congregation’s social, cultural and educational gatherings in the south wing. Both feature geometric forms and muted earth tones, expressing natural simplicity, warmth and order. Unity Temple is one of few Wright buildings designed for public use and one of even fewer buildings that continues to serve its original purpose as a place of worship. The design was so different from traditional churches, including those near it in Oak Park that the congregation called the new building a temple.
The restoration of Unity Temple was launched with a $10 million grant from the Alphawood Foundation in 2013. The Unity Temple Unitarian Universalist congregation, which calls the building its spiritual home, also contributed more than $1.75 million to the project. Additional contributions have been received by Unity Temple Restoration Foundation including a $200,000 grant from the Getty Foundation’s “Keeping It Modern Initiative” and other philanthropic individuals and foundations. The campaign to raise the remaining dollars will continue after the doors to Unity Temple open to the public.
Given successful completion of the TAWANI Foundation challenge by private individuals and foundations, the TAWANI Foundation will have inspired $3 million in charitable gifts, bringing the funds needed to be raised for the project to just under $9 million.
To make a donation to the restoration of Unity Temple, call the Unity Temple Restoration Foundation at 708-338-8873 or visit the Foundation’s website at www.utrf.org.
FACTS ABOUT UNITY TEMPLE
- Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1905, constructed 1906-1908, and dedicated and opened to the congregation in 1909
- One of only a few buildings designed by Wright for public use
- Wright was only 38 years old when he received the commission and was a member of the congregation
- Bold, modernist design with monolithic exterior unique in its time
- Among the first nonindustrial buildings in the world to use poured-in-place, exposed concrete
- Design noted for its infusion of beauty with functional integrity, connecting separate secular and sacred spaces by a central foyer
- Unity Temple has no bell tower or steeple, and no sculptures or religious ornamentation (which is why it was called a temple and not a church)
- One of very few Wright buildings that continues to serve its original purpose as a place of worship, community life and cultural stewardship
- Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1970
- Improvements made during the renovation process include:
- State-of-the-art geothermal HVAC system;
- Strengthened concrete structure;
- Upgraded electrical system and safety features;
- New roofing and drainage system;
- Meticulous restoration and conservation of all art glass, skylights, interior lamping and lighting, plaster, paint, finishes, woodwork and all ornamental fixtures;
- The restoration project started in spring 2015 through June 2017.
About Unity Temple:
Unity Temple Restoration Foundation is a not-for-profit corporation organized under the laws of the State of Illinois. The purpose of the Foundation is to: a) Facilitate the restoration and preservation of Unity Temple; b) Develop financial resources for the restoration, preservation, endowment, annual operating and maintenance expenses; and c) Develop and manage tour and educational programs at Unity Temple. For more information: www.utrf.org.
About TAWANI Enterprises:
TAWANI Enterprises, headquartered in Chicago, is an investment group specializing in the development, investment, management and preservation of real estate properties in the Chicago area. The company represents a diversified portfolio of iconic brands, such as Stone Heritage Properties, a luxury collection of historic Bed & Breakfast properties and unique event spaces, the Pritzker Military Museum & Library, the TAWANI Foundation and the Pritzker Military Foundation. Properties under the Stone Heritage Properties luxury collection include Stone Terrace, Stone Porch by the Lake, Lang House, The Emil Bach House and The Lincoln Way Inn. For more information, visit https://www.tawanienterprises.com or @pritzkerlibrary.