Despite Unity Temple’s standing as an architectural masterpiece and National Historic Landmark, Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic church for the Unitarian Congregation was in urgent need of restoration and repair. First built in 1908, the structure had long suffered from the effects of leaking roofs, deteriorating concrete and an uneven and challenging maintenance approach. Its condition had become so dire that the National Trust for Historic Preservation listed the structure as one of “America’s 11 most endangered historic places.”
Hired as construction manager in 2015, Berglund Construction led a $23 million restoration project to preserve, revitalize and modernize Unity Temple. We took to heart our responsibility to ensure Unity Temple's functionality for future generations of congregants, architectural enthusiasts and the broader community.
As construction manager, Berglund developed and managed the team of subcontractors and craftspeople to execute the arduous restoration plan, which had been developed by renowned restoration architecture firm Harboe Architects. Our expert team ensured the exacting approach was implemented with the highest regards for quality and respect for the Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece.
Berglund’s wide-ranging experience in the restoration and construction industry positioned us to properly manage a wide range of subcontractor work scopes including art glass restoration, historic interior plaster and paint, millwork, shotcrete façade repairs and façade cleaning, roofing, skylights, historic lighting, geothermal, landscaping and HVAC, electrical and plumbing upgrades.
The project also allowed us to continue a tradition and build on our reputation as one of the premier self-perform contractors in the region. Berglund completed the exterior concrete terrace and flatwork, concrete façade crack repairs, concrete flooring restoration, extensive structural concrete repairs and thousands of running feet of interior wood trim removal and reinstallation.
When Wright began work on Unity Temple in 1905, he envisioned a light-filled contemplative worship space isolated from the outside world, balanced by an open and collaborative community room. This juxtaposition was reinforced by the bronze lettering affixed above the main entrances, which reads: “For the worship of God and the service of Man.” Thanks to Berglund’s work on this project, the building will continue to represent Wright's vision and intention for generations to come.
Photos © Tom Rossiter
From lab testing existing in-place material to duplicate the exact-right plaster mix to restoring 108 art glass light fixtures, Berglund preservationists took care bring forth Wright’s original intention with modern materials.
Restoring and preserving a National Historic Landmark was a one-of-a-kind project. Meticulous care was taken on every scope of work. The plaster replication was particularly unique as it plays an important role is the appearance of the historic finishes. The paint was brushed on and then wiped off, leaving paint in the crevasses but exposing the high points of the plaster aggregate, making the plaster composition integral to the system. Through petrographic analysis, we were able to determine the composition of the original plaster, allowing us to provide an accurate representation of the historic space.