academic work - antechamber
Unity Temple Visitor's Center - Oak Park, IL
Proposal for a minimally invasive addition to Frank Lloyd Wright's Unity Temple, completed in 1908. Initial concepts were aimed at echoing Wright's career language, but were decided to be an inauthentic expression of the desired needs of the program. My first experience visiting Unity Temple was truly memorable and of a religious quality. This project sought to create a duality of experience—Unity Temple's beauty and warmth against a sterile and brisk Visitor's Center.
The Grand Atrium is an empty grey concrete void of the exact proportions as the primary worship space of Unity Temple. This notion of monochromatic emptiness is meant to divorce the visitor from their preconceived notions of spiritual experience in preparation for the warm and inviting sense of place, community, and transcendence that Unity Temple provides. Unity Temple is spectacular on the inside but has a modest concrete exterior whereas, the proposed Antechamber is barren on the inside and stimulating on the outside. The exterior cladding of shou sugi ban treated cedar is accented with reflecting pools and pathways. The main facility of the proposed addition is underground with only the Grand Atrium protruding above grade.
The "Oak Park Plaza" contains vertical posts that are organized in such a way to reflect an aerial view of the structures designed by Wright during his time in Oak Park, see image titled "Oak Park Plaza Overlay Map." The programmatic elements, such as classrooms, the gift shop, and service facilities, are concealed underneath the plaza above. The ceilings of the underground spaces are that of wall-to-wall skylights with translucent glazing that diffuses the natural daylight through the reflecting pool water above to the spaces below.
John Taylor (Jt) Gorski