August 14, 2000

Unitarian Meeting House

Exterior Photographs
This is an excellent Wright building to visit if you are touring Madison, Wisconsin. The tour is well done, and the access to the building is excellent. There are many Wright originals in the building including furniture and other artifacts. There are three pages of photographs at this website including this page of exterior photos, a page of interior photos and a page with photos of the auditorium. There is an official website for the First Unitarian Society

The construction site was more secluded when the building was conceived, but it is now surrounded by development and looks out on to a hospital. When it was constructed, there was a veteran's hospital being constructed, but it appears much closer so I think it is a newer hospital. Actually, "looks out" is not exactly accurate. You can see from the auditorium interior that you can't actually see out of the "prow" of the building — my father and I both thought this was strange and somewhat disappointing. I suppose that the glass prow serves to provide the light source for indirect lighting in the auditorium.
Unitarian Meeting House "Prow".
As with most Wright buildings, the entry way (below) is understated.
Unitarian Meeting House Driveway.
It's not an optical illusion — the roof of the building is bending down.
I doubt this was planned, but it's not uncommon with Wright buildings.
We didn't hear anything about the roof leaking on the tour,
but that would not be too surprising either....
My father is six feet tall so you can see that a certain amount of
"compression" of space was intended here.
Unitarian Meeting House Entry.
This is the window off the "living room" that is used for social gatherings.
It is located at the back of the building.
Unitarian Meeting House "Living Room" windows.
Here is some of the detail on the outside of the glass prow.
You can see the reinforcing blocks used to hold the glass in place.
You can also see the mitered glass with no visible seam —
another common feature in Wright buildings.
Unitarian Meeting House closeup of glass in prow.
This education center was added later by Taliesin Architects.
Unitarian Meeting House education wing. 

Interior Photographs
This is the "loggia-gallery" with several original plywood tables designed by Wright. A new word for me — a "loggia" is a "roofed but open gallery or arcade along the front or side of a building." 

Unitarian Meeting House gallery.
I thought this was a nice use of indirect natural lighting in the building.
The interior view first followed by an exterior view.
Unitarian Meeting House indirect natural lighting, interior view.
Unitarian Meeting House indirect natural lighting, outside view.
This is the bell that used to hang at the top of the prow on the outside.
I believe the tour guide said that the wind blew it down,
so they decided to keep it inside.
I can imagine the concern if that bell went through the glass prow....
Unitarian Meeting House -- bell that used to hang from the prow.
And of course there is a fireplace.
The Hearth Room is located directly behind the auditorium.
Unitarian Meeting House  -- fireplace in the hearth room. 

This is the auditorium. A wonderful space — very serene and light. The organ pipes are located in the prow and you can see the vertical rectangular windows that open on the right side of the glass here. 

Unitarian Meeting House auditorium.
This is the view looking out from the podium. Although I did not
plan the photography well, you can see a wider angle view
created by combining three photos to get a better feel for the space.
Unitarian Meeting House view from the podium.
I thought these "wings" out over the podium were interesting. This is looking up.
Unitarian Meeting House looking up from the podium.

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