A concrete masterpiece in peril

The construction industry is constantly producing new techniques and products to make building construction faster, safer and stronger. Technology and innovation are bringing us more energy efficient buildings and superior building products. But I also believe in the importance of preserving our past and recognizing the architectural history we find all over this country. The National Trust for Historic Preservation recently released its list of the 11 most endangered historic places in the country. On the list is the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Unity Temple in Oak Park, Ill. The ChicagoTribune.com posted an article on Unity Temple's situation. The building, which opened in 1908, is one of the first buildings to feature exposed concrete; however, a century of water damage has left the building with a restoration bill that could reach $25 million. The Unity Temple Restoration Foundation is working to raise funds to complete the restoration. Many historic buildings are saved through a modern restoration plan, building techniques and products. I've written about a few of them in the pages of Concrete Contractor. (See "Repairing a Concrete Masterpiece" about the Guggenheim Museum and "Concrete Meets History" about the Virginia State Capitol.) It would be a huge loss to the concrete industry, the architectural community and the cities and towns in which these buildings stand to see structures like the Unity Temple fall victim to a lack of support for their restoration.