Robie House, Unity Temple among 8 Frank Lloyd Wright buildings added to World Heritage list

ByMeghan Kluth WLS logo
Monday, July 8, 2019
8 Frank Lloyd Wright buildings added to World Heritage list
Frank Lloyd Wright Frederick C. Robie House in Chicago and The Unity Temple in Oak Park were added to the UNESCO World Heritage list.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Some Chicago area buildings designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright have gained a worldwide designation.

Eight of his designs - including the Frederick C. Robie House in Chicago and The Unity Temple in Oak Park - have just been placed on the United Nation's prestigious World Heritage List, which includes the Taj Mahal, the Egyptian pyramids and the Statue of Liberty.

"In the United States there are only 24 World Heritage sites, eight of which now are Frank Lloyd Wright sites," said Robert Burke, a volunteer at The Unity Temple.

The Unity Temple is in Oak Park, Illinois, which is home to the largest concentration of Wright-designed buildings, including his home and studio. The church, completed in 1908, was one of the first U.S. public buildings to feature exposed concrete, according to the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust, which is based in the Chicago area. The temple and the Robie House, which recently underwent restoration, are standards of Wright's "Prairie style," relying on strong horizontal features like a prairie landscape.

The Wright structures are the first works of U.S. modern architecture to make the prestigious list. Known for his horizontal lines, like those displayed at the Robie House, Wright's drive for modern architecture is crystallized into a design which shapes the way we live today.

"Here he's completely redefining the way we live because he has an open floor plan: one space leads to another," said Sue Blaine, a volunteer at the Robie House. "It's a more casual type of living and the building itself is well suited for the environment it's in."

The recognition of Wright's impact on modern architecture comes three years after the World Heritage Committee declined to place a group of 10 Wright buildings on the list.

"For 15 years this has been a process of gathering information, having lots of research and applying twice now for the designation," said Heidi Ruehle-May, executive director of Unity Temple Restoration Foundation.

The committee met Sunday in Baku, Azerbaijan, and also added to the list Italy's hills of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, which is home to the world-famous sparkling wine Prosecco.

The other Wright buildings included are the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City; Taliesin in Spring Green Wisconsin; the Herbert and Katherine Jacobs House in Madison, Wisconsin; Fallingwater in Mill Run, Pennsylvania; Los Angeles' Hollyhock House and Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Among his most iconic buildings was the Guggenheim with its spiral ramp for viewing galleries. It was completed in 1959, the same year Wright died.

More than 1,000 sites in 167 countries are recognized by the United Nations' cultural organization. They can be examples of outstanding natural beauty or man-made buildings.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.