Community Christian Church in Kansas City was designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. For years its defining feature was a “steeple of light” that sent beams of light into the night sky. But for the past two years the church has been dark.
Architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed Community Christian Church in 1940. He called it the 'church of the future,' and the original plans called for dozens of searchlights to project from openings in a dome on the roof.
Some of the ideas Wright proposed, including the steeple of light, were beyond the technology of the era. And Wright's original renderings of the building had dozens of lights projecting from openings in a dome on the roof. If put to use, his concept would have overwhelmed nearby buildings with light.
Fifty years later, in 1993, Dale Eldred, the long-time chair of the sculpture department at Kansas City Art Institute, designed a solution. Four light cannons projected columns of light above the church. At its peak, the steeple projected light three miles into the sky.
The company that built the lights went out of business and the church had trouble finding replacement parts. Retrofitting fixtures worked for awhile, but one-by-one the bulbs dimmed until only a single light glowed weakly above the church.
“It was a really difficult decision to turn the lights off," says Shanna Steitz, the church's senior minister. "They were such a source of pride for this congregation and for this community. They had run their life span sitting on the roof of a building exposed to all the Missouri weather.”
As the plan to restore the lights was moving forward, Steitz also began the process of historic designation to help protect the church from the threat of developers. The church is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The new light steeple is being designed with Xenon lamp technology, which Paul Rabinovitz, president and CEO of of Strong Lighting in Omaha, Nebraska, describes as a "nearly ideal light source because the plasma that's generated inside the lamp is very, very small, but very, very bright.”
The building has been dark in other ways than its missing steeple. Services were canceled for more than a year because of the pandemic. The planned illumination of the new light steeple on Saturday, May 8th, will be followed by the resumption of in-person services on Sunday.
On the evening of the test, Steitz gets a brief lesson from building supervisor Kevin Freeman on how to turn on one of four searchlights. She flips a switch and feels the power of the moment.
"Ha ha!" Steitz says exuberantly. "Let there be light.” More here.
In 1927, Frank Lloyd Wright designed a series of twelve monthly covers based on seasonal themes for Liberty magazine. While they were never published on the magazines, the designs endure as a lasting part of the Wright legacy.
The Whirling Arrow explains, "When Frank Lloyd Wright submitted his designs for the covers for Liberty magazine in 1927, the publishers judged them as too avant-garde for the time. The magazine returned Wright’s presentation drawings and they became the basis for later interpretations executed in diverse media. Each design of the Liberty magazine covers is an example of Wright’s practice of using the tools of his trade: a t-square, triangle, and compass to create lively geometric designs."
Each month, The Whirling Arrow will add another design to this post, with a link to view products that each of them inspired. Appropriately, we begin with May Basket. Click here to view.
ArchDaily reviews the soon to be released book by Stuart Cohen, Frank L. Wright and the Architects of Steinway Hall: A Study in Collaboration.
In 1897, Frank Lloyd Wright, Robert Spencer, Dwight Perkins, and Myron Hunt, all young architects just starting out in practice, shared office space in Chicago. This book is both a history of that brief period and an attempt to assess the extent to which they collaborated on their architectural designs and on the creation of architectural theory which would impact a half century of architectural design. While there is little firsthand documentation of the time spent in their shared loft office in Steinway Hall, this study engages in a side by side comparison of projects they each designed while working there. Overlapping ideas, design similarities, and an analysis of their subsequent work, all suggest that these individuals formed a creative “collaborative circle” of friends, who jointly developed ideas later claimed as the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. This is a book about artistic collaboration at a time when discussions of art and architectural history are still largely dominated by the belief that significant works are created by the lone artistic genius.
At the turn of the last century Spencer, Perkins, Hunt, and Wright were part of a community of architects who were all active members of the Chicago Architectural. Steinway Hall, an office building designed by Dwight Perkins, became a home to Chicago’s architectural community with as many as 50 different architects renting space in that building at the turn of the last century. Based on Real Estate Directories from 1897 through 1910 the book includes a listing of the architects that worked and interacted there. Also included are brief biographies of Spencer, Perkins, and Hunt. Excepting Hunt, none of these men have been the subject of individual publications. While Frank Lloyd Wright’s life and work have been extensively chronicled, this book reexamines the period between Wright’s arrival in Chicago in 1887 and his move into the loft office in Steinway Hall in 1897. More here.
This year, summer camps at Frank Lloyd wright's Taliesin wstate in Wisconsin will be a fun-filled hybrid of live virtual sessions and off-screen activities. Participants will create, build models, and sketch to develop observation, critical thinking, and spatial planning skills. Camp participants will engage in a community of their peers through interactive video conferences, hands-on activities, a digital portfolio, and both live and recorded instruction. They will also participate in mindfulness and team-building activities and have the opportunity to practice graciously giving and receiving feedback during our studio critiques. More info here.
Join The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust in Oak Park and River Forest, Illinois, for "Wright Plus," a safe and unforgettable architectural experience on Saturday, September 18, 2021.
Working with gracious homeowners, we are delighted to bring you this exceptional line-up of houses as originally planned before the COVID-19 pandemic put events like Wright Plus on-hold.
Residences on the walk include three Wright designs, as well as two other homes making their housewalk debuts:
- Isabel Roberts House (Frank Lloyd Wright, 1908, remodel 1955)
- J Kibben Ingalls House (Frank Lloyd Wright, 1909)
- Oscar B. Balch House (Frank Lloyd Wright, 1911)
- Bell House (H. Mahler, 1914)
- Henry Einfeldt House (Purcell & Elmslie, 1915)
- John A. Klesert House (William Drummond, 1915)
- Seth A. Rhodes House (John Van Bergen, 1916)
- E Probst House (Edward Probst, 1916)
This immersive day will reveal how the innovative Prairie style has been re-imagined and reinterpreted by architects, homeowners and Wright himself. More here.