The Chicagoland area is now home to two UNESCO World Heritage sites.
The Robie House in Chicago’s Hyde Park and the Unity Temple in nearby Oak Park were both added to the prestigious list, included in a group of eight structures that represent Frank Lloyd Wright’s 20th-century architecture.
The UNESCO list, created by the United Nations, catalogues the world’s most significant cultural and natural sites. The Wright buildings are now listed alongside more than 1,100 ancient and modern marvels like the Taj Mahal, Machu Picchu, the Egyptian pyramids, and the Statue of Liberty.
Unity Temple auditorium. Photo by Tom Rossiter, courtesy of Harboe Architects
Wright’s works were selected for their innovative nature and their long-lasting impact on modern architecture around the world. His striking designs and trademark style of “organic architecture” have made him an internationally renowned icon well past his death in 1959.
The eight structures, culled from a list of 449 Wright works, are located across six states, including the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan, the Taliesin compound and the Jacobs House in Wisconsin, the Fallingwater house near Pittsburgh, and more.
Adding to the prestige, the Wright buildings are only the 24th U.S. entry and the only example of U.S. modern architecture that has made the World Heritage List.
Here’s what to know about the Chicago-area Wright buildings recognized by UNESCO:
Frederick C. Robie House, 1910, Chicago
Photo by James Caulfield, courtesy of Frank Lloyd Wright Trust
5757 S. Woodlawn Ave.
Tours: Thursday – Monday, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
The Robie House is one of the cornerstones of modern architecture. The structure, known as the single best example of Wright’s signature Prairie style, recently underwent a comprehensive restoration. Inspired by the Midwestern landscape, the house was designed so the interior and exterior flow seamlessly together.
The striking exterior makes the home instantly recognizable as one of Wright’s works. Once inside, you’ll find a light-filled open floor plan and original pieces of Wright-designed furniture. The house is open to the public and guided tours are available, where visitors can discover why this is considered one of Wright’s finest works.
Unity Temple, 1909, Oak Park
Photo by Tom Rossiter, courtesy of Harboe Architects
875 Lake Street, Oak Park, IL
Tours: Monday – Thursday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., Friday 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., Saturday 10 – 11 a.m.
The Unity Temple is unlike any church you’ve ever seen. Designed in his Oak Park studio just a few blocks away, the Unity Temple is considered a defining piece of Wright’s early career. The only public Prairie-style building, the Unity Temple is known for its impact on religious spaces and modern architecture as a whole. The striking juxtaposition between the exposed concrete, decorative elements, and abundance of natural light truly exemplifies Wright’s organic ethos.
Along the two recognized buildings, the Chicagoland area is home to the largest concentration of Wright-design buildings in the world. The Rookery’s light court in downtown and Emil Bach House on the north side are striking examples of the legendary architect's work. And neighboring Oak Park is home to a rich array of Wright-designed residences, including his former home and studio.
Learn more about Wright’s local works and all of Chicago’s groundbreaking architecture.