Unitarian Meeting House (page 1 of two pages)

Frank Lloyd Wright

Until the mid-nineteen forties the First Unitarian Society of Madison met in a late 19th century church near Capitol Square but the growth of their congregation necessitated a larger building. Wright's father had been a founding member of the Society and Frank Lloyd Wright, also a member, was the obvious, though not unanimous choice as the architect for the new meeting house. This new structure was built in a scarcely populated hilly area west of downtown Madison, allowing Wright to design a building coordinated with the site. Because of various cost over runs the congregation helped with the actual work, in particular hauling limestone from a nearby quarry. The economic problems this building created were probably worth it since the AIA has designated it as one of Wright's most important buildings and it is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The one-floor meeting house is constructed of native limestone, copper, and glass; it is roofed in copper. The original plan is one long wing (running east-west) with an entrance at one short end and a "prow" protruding northward on the north long side, which is the main feature of the auditorium. The meeting house also includes a social area, kitchen, offices, and classrooms.

Left: main entrance at far left with the "prow" at the far right, partly obscured by trees; center: view of the "prow"

The walls and ceiling of the triangular auditorium sweep from the rear to the dramatic light-filled "prow." This wood and glass extension gives the exterior of the building a height akin to a steeple.

Center: the "prow" from the side; right: the offices on the north side in the long wing with part of the "prow" to the left

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© 2002 Mary Ann Sullivan. I have photographed (on site), scanned, and manipulated all the images on these pages. Please feel free to use them for personal or educational purposes. They are not available for commercial purposes.

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