The congregation of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Rockford is understandably proud of its exceptional building, designed by noted architect Pietro Belluschi, in which the first service was held on September 16, 1966. An addition to the building, designed by the firm of Saavedra Gehlhausen and constructed by Odling Construction Company, was dedicated on November 4, 2001.
Our building is fully accessible. On Sunday, or for other large events, come in the glass doors past the atrium. If you visit during the week, come in the glass "church office" doors. We're happy to show folks around anytime - just call ahead.
We have adapted the following article on the original building which appeared in Architectural Record, March 1967:
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.