Unity Temple in Oak Park, Illinois, has emerged from the plastic cocoon that enveloped this Frank Lloyd Wright national historic landmark for over a year. While under wraps, the building was crawling with activity. Outside, crews repaired the concrete shell, cutting out chunks, filling in holes, and mending cracks. Indoors, plaster walls and ceilings were patched up and repainted to match their original texture and color. Piece by piece, Wright’s trademark art glass and wood panels were carefully removed, boxed up and shipped off site for restoration, and then reinstalled. The full-scale makeover includes upgraded skylights as well.
Now, for the first time, the world-famous structure, which dates back to 1908, will be air-conditioned. While hard-hatted workers were busy working their way around the scaffolding, drillers were installing a geothermal system in the front lawn. The "arteries" of this system, a series of interconnecting fluid-filled pipes, were snaked down nine holes 500 feet deep. They will serve as a conduit between the building interior and the earth’s steady temperatures, cooling off the congregants inside during the summer and warming them in winter.
The geothermal set-up will also cut down on humidity and produce hot and cold water. The modernized HVAC system, combined with newly installed dimmable LED lights, should pay off handsomely in energy and cost savings.
And speaking of handsome, fans of FLW (and gorgeous green buildings) will no doubt sing the praises of the spruced-up sanctuary at its grand reopening next year.