Shortly after its dedication, our building was featured in a 1967 issue of Architectural Record. The above photo is from that publication and an adaptation of the text is below.
Tradition-free architecture for a “free church:” a Unitarian center
The term “free church” or “free faith” as used by Unitarian Universalists describes their belief in the right of each member of the religious fellowship to engage in his/her own free, yet disciplined, search for truth. Since this search may lead down many diverse spiritual paths, Unitarian Universalists consider inappropriate for themselves a church architecture which has been derived from accepted ecclesiastical forms expressing traditional faiths. This makes hard work for the architects that the Unitarian Universalists hire, since even the most innovative designers depend upon traditional or modified liturgical concepts as guides to building a church. And as a result, Unitarian Universalist buildings – denied the evocative forms handed down by older faiths, are often dull and disappointing.
Among the churches included in the volume of distinguished work by Pietro Belluschi are several for the Unitarian Universalist faith. The Unitarian Universalist Church in Rockford, Illinois, designed in association with C. Edward Ware, proves once more that when the program demands it, he is able to design a handsome and successful church without recourse to historical derivation. Said Belluschi: “The beautiful site called for more than the ususal effort; it needed a strong symbolic expression, a form removed from the old uninspired ecclesiastical tradition, yet possessing convincing qualities particularly relevant to the special Unitarian Universalist commitments. To this end, we endeavored to give the building maximum economy, yet without cheapness.
We strove to give clarity to the plan, while providing a sequence of visual experiences — relying on good proportions, effective lighting and honest materials.”
Surrounded by space on a generous ten and one-half acre site, the major elements are easily distinguished from all directions. Looking east and northeast the sanctuary is seen to be linked by the narthex to the fellowship hall.
The slope of the site provides full exposure to the classrooms and small chapel below. Elements to the north and south of the entrance court or atrium share a lower roof. These include offices, the library, the lounge, and a kitchen adjacent to the fellowship hall.
The sanctuary beams and columns are precast concrete in an H-form.
The entire space receives natural light from the east and west through clerestory windows located above the redwood board-and-batten panels between the beams. A narrow panel of glass at the front of the sanctuary provides a focus of strong light on the rear wall and a one-bay-wide panel of glass strips illuminates the entire platform area with east light.