My first experience at Unity Temple
I first entered Unity Temple many years ago to attend the wedding of a friend’s daughter. This was an adventure in several ways, one of them memorably funny. We were all members of another Unitarian congregation, but the friend loved the Unity Temple building and had chosen it instead of our own church as her daughter’s wedding venue. My own architectural sensibilities were rudimentary, a fact that did not prohibit my dislike, at the time, for Frank Lloyd Wright’s work. Upon sitting down in the upper balcony, I was immediately taken by the way the audience members faced each other and were so close to the pulpit, a credit to Wright. I was also in a front row of the balcony, where knees encounter the wall and feet making sitting for any length of time quite uncomfortable – a Wright negative, as far as I was concerned back then.
But another feature of the sanctuary came into visible play toward the end of the wedding ceremony. The bride’s wedding photographer backed out at the very last minute, causing her mother to scramble looking for a replacement. She got a member of our church – not a wedding photographer in any sense – to take the role. He set up two cameras focused on the floor of the sanctuary – one in the first balcony and one in the upper. Both were on tripods. During the ceremony he would remove the first balcony camera from its tripod to use down on the floor of the church.
When the ceremony ended, the photographer was running back and forth between the two balconies. The minister now presented the now-wedded couple to the audience. Unfortunately, as anyone who has been in Unity Temple would know, what you might call the “processional aisle” from the pulpit to the back of the sanctuary is quite short. As the couple started toward the back of the church, our photographer ran to the balcony and reached for the camera on his tripod, only to discover that not only had the couple already turned toward the cloisters, and so were not visible from the balcony; the camera, which was supposed to be on the tripod, was hanging around his neck. It was like watching a Buster Keaton movie.
I came away from that day with the movie of the photographer playing repeatedly in my mind. But I also credit that day with starting the change in my impression of Frank Lloyd Wright, despite my aching knees.
By Ed McDevitt, UTRF board member and former UTUUC board president