We are fans of the organic architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, the way his designs fit and compliment the setting where they are constructed. Although known for his design of residences and offices, Wright did design several churches. One of the more interesting designs is near Milwaukee and we were fortunate this past weekend to have the opportunity to tour and hear about it..
This is the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, one of the last designs Wright created before his death. Although a seemingly odd look for a church, it is faithful to Orthodox symbols – the dome and cross.
The floor of the church is in the shape of a cross. From the back this image looks to the altar, the vertical section. From side to side in the image is the horizontal of the cross. Covering this is the dome.
Wright enjoyed playing with shape to create spaces that draw your eyes from small spaces to larger ones. Sitting in the lower part of the church you feel intimate. Coming to the upper part you get the full sense of the space under the dome. The upper area can seat twice the number of people as the lower, but you don’t realize that until you take the spiral stairs to the upper area. The light pipes just under the edge of the dome spread the outside light across the ceiling, creating a vista that gives a sense of expansive sky.
Typical of Wright designed buildings, all details were carefully created by him to fit into the overall sense of place. These light fixtures in the lower level mimic the cross design in an inverted dome.
In the arches supporting the dome, open spaces intended to bring in outside light, there are stained glass representations of religious figures.
We’ve visited several of Wright’s buildings around the country, including his two residences in Wisconsin and Arizona. The most interesting thing about walking through a Wright structure is the modern and yet timeless aspects of it, regardless of its age. This church was completed in 1961, a fairly new building of this type. Yet it could have been erected last week and in another 50 years will probably still feel that way.
It’s great to see genius manifested.