Unity Temple Restoration

As you may have guessed, I have a love of art, old buildings and specific design elements- such as tile and stained glass. My love of old buildings is a family interest and most likely a catalyst for my profession in Interior design. It all stems from a summer road trip with my family into Wisconsin to explore all of the Frank Lloyd Wright structures we could find…. but I digress.

Frank Lloyd Wright, the infamous Architect, designer and creative genius is a favorite of mine.  I admire his work not just for the  ingenuity and unique thinking for the era, but for the personality needed to take such leaps.  Frank Lloyd Wright saw space and materials in ways that today are still being perfected.  His structures tested the limits of what was ( and is) possible and these inventive designs are showing more than their share of stress and wear from the years.

The Unity Temple in Oak Park, Illinois is one of those structures.

With a flat roof, signature Wrightean cantilevers and a large open interior, the  structure is cracked and crumbling and the exterior a new target for vandals. The National Trust for Historic Preservation named Unity Temple one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in 2009. There is a foundation established, the Unity Temple Restoration Foundation, that has an excellent website providing information on the restoration, fundraising and steps that have been made since the 2009 listing as an endangered site.  Please donate to their efforts if you can.  Historic architectural sites such as  the Unity Temple are worth saving.

Watch this video for a glimpse of the site and a history that you may not have seen before. Also note the brass epitaph that was recently stolen by vandals is visible within the first seconds and again towards the end of the video.


Inquiring Minds Want to Know

Glazed bricks and relief tile wall

Ishtar Gate at Babylon, circa 575 B.C. from DesignBoom.com

As a somewhat inquisitive person by nature, I happen to question a lot. I hate the word no, because there is always a solution.

Anyway, I love tile and I always want to learn more. Where did ceramic tile originate? Why? Where does the odd word ’tile’ come from? What are the earliest examples of historic tile and what did it look like?

For any of you who care about the nuts and bolts of tile and want to see some incredible historic tile designs, check out this amazing article A Condensed Ceramic Tile History from my new favorite site, DesignBoom.com

Oh DesignBoom, I can already anticipate the hours we will spend together. For good or for bad, I am intrigued (and a little smarter after my history of ceramic tile lesson. xoxo)


Preserving the Mod in Cape Cod

Nathaniel Swift House photo, Library of Congress

When I think of Cape Cod, a cute little symmetrical home comes to mind.

With it’s rectangular shape and single gable roof, it is a simple, yet effective design intended to withstand the cold Northeastern winters as well as sand and surf.  I was completely floored to learn that the Cape Cod area has a wide variety of modernist structures built generally between the late 1940′s and mid 1960′s.  Turns out many famous architects built their own summer cottages here as well, for example Walter Gropius  and Marcel Breuer designed homes for their families on Cape Cod.

Like many mid-century modern homes, these are in various states of deterioration and a group called the Cape Cod Modern House Trust is working to not only restore these houses, but collect information and document the history of the modern homes on the Cape, something which has never been done.

The /Gips House Vincent Dewitt for The Boston Globe

Kugel/Gips House by Vincent Dewitt for The Boston Globe

The underlying reason for some of this deterioration is an unusual one: Many of these homes have been sitting vacant, owned by the National Seashore. This is not due to lack of interested buyers, but from a government acquisition of the properties to create a state park on the Cape.  This buy-out took place in 1961 but allowed the occupants an option to stay in the house for another 25 years and in some cases, longer. Due to a fortuitous twist of fate, the government did not have the money to raze the houses as was originally planned so they remain, a silent reminder of the modernist history of that area in the last 50 years.  The goal of the Cape Cod Modern House Trust is to “Restore all seven of the Modernist houses owned by the National Seashore and reconfigure them into educational and cultural resources.”

Click here for some amazing photography of these modern homes, linked to the Cubes on Dunes/DWR article referenced below.

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