Following yesterday’s travel day, we were ready for a full day in beautiful Madison, Wisconsin. To that end, we began with brunch, followed by a full day of learning. But this being Wisconsin, where protest is not only tolerated in the city, but actively encouraged, our first site was a number of “handmaids” descending on the capitol…
For our first full day in Wisconsin, we started our day with brunch at Dlux, which is about half a block from the Wisconsin State Capitol. Being from the hot state of Texas, we jumped at the opportunity to enjoy our food outside without melting in the process. Our food choices included more classic Wisconsin fare…
…such as Cheese Curds…
…the Salmon Burger, the White Bean Burger…
…and some truly wonderful shakes!
After brunch, the Leapsters headed to view their third Frank Lloyd Wright Structure!
Monona Terrace Tour
After having a quick brunch, the Leapsters toured the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center. The Monona Terrace was designed by the architect we have studied throughout our entire trip: Frank Lloyd Wright. Frank Lloyd Wright has designed more than 1,000 structures. However, during his lifetime, he was only able to complete 523 structures. Out of Mr. Wright’s 1,000 designs, the Monona Terrace was one of the structures he was unable to see through to its completion, at least during his lifetime.
In 1938, Frank Lloyd Wright designed a building that would establish a clear relationship between the Wisconsin State Capitol and Lake Monona. Local newspaper articles called it the “dream Civic Center.” His original plan for the design included an auditorium, rail depot, marina, courthouse, and city hall. Mr. Wright proposed his plan to the County Board, but his plan failed to pass.
Mr. Wright went through many obstacles that prevented his plan from coming to fruition. In 1941, the citizens of Madison approved Mr. Wright’s plan for an auditorium. However, World War II halted his plan again. In 1955, after the conclusion of the war, Madison citizens approved a bond referendum that allocated 4 million to create a civic center. The location of the building was selected and Mr. Wright was approved as the architect. In 1957, the project was stalled by the passage of a bill that reduced the height of a building on Monona Lake to 20 feet. In 1959, the bill preventing this project was appealed. However, on April 9, 1959, Frank Lloyd Wright died at the age of 91 in Arizona. From 1966 to 1990, the city of Madison proposed many plans to complete Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision, but all failed. However, in 1992, the city turns Mr. Wright’s civic center idea into a convention center. This plan for the building was approved by voters and funding for the building was secured. Finally, in 1994, after almost 56 years, the construction for Monona Terrace began.
In 1997, 59 years after its initial proposal, Mr. Wright’s vision was realized.
The Monona Terrace currently serves as a gathering place for conventions, weddings, banquets, etc.
The Monona terrace is the third Frank Lloyd Wright structure that the LEAP Students have viewed. We will not call ourselves experts, but we have picked up on key features that make a Frank Lloyd Wright Structure a Frank Lloyd Wright Structure. The first and most evident is the use of a hue of red Mr. Wright calls Cherokee Red. This color can be found in many places throughout the building such as the walkway leading to the front entrance, the carpet, furniture, etc.
Also, Mr. Wright is well known for utilizing what he called organic architecture. He believed in creating structures that compliment its environment. He emphasized the relationship between architecture and nature. His use of organic architecture can be found specifically in his repeated use of halfmoon shapes. Halfmoon shapes were used to create door handles, light fixtures, and chandeliers. The most obvious use of this shape is in the windows, which give a great view of Lake Monona.
We also recognized Frank Lloyd Wright’s use of compress and release to help lead you through the building. Frank Lloyd Wright also incorporated domes within the building to pay homage to the Wisconsin Capitol, a motif that is particularly evident in the Guggenheim-like stairwells…
Additionally, the LEAP students were excited to see that the Monona Terrace is a LEED certified building.
Another interesting fact, in the creation of the Monona Terrace. a Richard Haas mural was covered.The LEAP Students like to think of this as a collaboration between Frank Lloyd Wright and Richard Haas. We took some time to find the mural after our tour.
Haas created this mural in the 1980s, but it was covered up a little more than a decade later, to make way for a design by Frank Lloyd Wright, leaving only some dimly-seen vestiges of Haas.
First Unitarian Society of Madison
The First Unitarian Society of Madison was established in 1879, in Madison, Wisconsin.The Unitarian meeting house is a church that practices Unitarian Universalism. This religion places an emphasis on uniting people of different ethnicities, ages, political identities, gender, and spiritualities. The congregation of this church is very diverse and come from different walks of life. However, all Unitarians share 7 core principles that they value that bonds their congregation as one. Unitarians believe that every person has worth, and they accept individuals for who they are. Also, they believe in growing through a personal search for truth, working for justice, and they believe that everything is interconnected.
Speaking of things being connected, Frank Lloyd Wright had a direct relationship to The Unitarian Society of Madison when he was commissioned to build their new church. Frank Lloyd Wright was a member of the Unitarian Society of Madison and his parents were founding members. Because of his direct tie to the Unitarian Society his ideologies were strategically incorporated throughout the structure of the building.
We began our tour on the front side of the structure, which is referred to as the prow. This part of the building is described as if it is “reaching for the Heavens”. Some even believe that this is a symbol for praying hand. However, for Mr. Wright the soaring glass represents “aspiration.” The prow of the meeting house is also a symbol for unity. A traditional church has a steeple, sanctuary, and separate meeting rooms. However, the prow is designed to include the sanctuary, steeple, and other portions of a church under the same roof.
Frank Lloyd Wright found meaning in geometric shapes. His use of triangles throughout this structure is a symbol of strength.
Next, we headed to the entrance of the building. We learned that during the construction of the meeting house the congregation took an active role in building the church. The walls of the church are made of dolomite found about 35 miles north of Madison. Members of the Unitarian Society of Madison traveled to this location and hauled the stones to the building site to reduce the cost of construction. These members are known as stone haulers and are well respected in the church.
The meeting house is privileged to have Frank Lloyd Wright’s Stamp of approval. Red ceramic blocks with Mr. Wright’s signature are placed on buildings he is most proud of. (Picture)
Next we were led to the foyer, which had Mr. Wright’s signature Cherokee red floors along with double triangle pattern tiling. The foyer also has a low hanging ceiling, which is an example of compression.
This architecture technique helped pushed us to the next room:The Hearth Room.
The Hearth Room has a hexagonal dome that is inscribed with the names of Unitarian ministers and transcendentalists that Mr. Wright believed to be influential. The Hearth Room sits at the back of the sanctuary, and it has a compressing feeling due to its low ceiling. However, when you step into the sanctuary you get a feeling of release because of the soaring ceilings.
In the Sanctuary, the pews were constructed to form camaraderie among the members. Instead of all seats facing the altar, Mr. Wright made the pews on both the left and right side face the middle section of pews. The meeting house also gave a beautiful view of the inside structure of the prow.The LEAP students were able to take a moment to experience the calming ambiance and sense of security the sanctuary gave.
Out of the Sanctuary, we were led to the loggia. This part of the structure mimics the triangular shape that is found through the building. The walls are lines with Japanese prints that were given to the church by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Overall, the Unitarian Society of Madison was a beautiful structure, and it is by far the best we have toured on our trip. Up next, the Leap students headed to tour their second state capitol!
Our final (official) stop of the day was the Wisconsin Capitol. This building, completed in 1917 at a cost of more than seven million, is just under 300 feet tall. While this is about 20 feet shorter than the Texas Capitol building–where we both worked this spring–it made up for its relative short stature with its beauty.
Of particular beauty, was the interior dome.
Unlike the Texas Capitol, the architect devoted as much time and energy on the interior as the exterior. There were rooms with particular motifs, such as the “Gold Room.”
The Senate and the House of Representatives were both beautiful…
…with murals and other decorations that exemplified the state’s history. The Governor’s reception room was also beautiful, with a particularly attractive ceiling….
Perhaps the highlight of the capitol tour, however, was the ability to go high into the capitol dome…
…and to the observation deck.
This was a world of fun, giving us the opportunity to take photos of the surroundings…
…the beautiful exterior detail…
…and, of course, ourselves.
It was a beautiful day in a beautiful city, and we enjoyed our time here.