Annunciation Church (1956), Wauwatosa, Wisconsin
The Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church was designed in 1956 for the Greek Orthodox community of Milwaukee. This was Frank Lloyd Wright’s last ecclesiastical commission, and one of his last major concrete buildings. He died before construction was completed.
The plan is a Greek cross, which means that the four arms of the cross are equal in length. Three spiral staircases, with central light posts, bring people up from the parking lot to the audiorium. The upper part of the building is carried on concrete piers that support the bowl-shaped balcony covered by the dome of the roof. Natural overhead light is provided to the interior worship space by a ring of glass spheres below the shallow dome. Primary construction materials are cast concrete, steel, aluminum, and glass.
Modern engineering made execution of the design possible. William Allin Storrer discusses the challenges in The Frank Lloyd Wright Companion (University of Chicago Press, 1993):
“The roof structure is a concrete shell dome originally surfaced in blue ceramic mosaic tile and, to withstand extreme temperature changes, supported on thousands of ball bearings. The roof dome, then, rides on these ball bearings set in steel rails, supported by reinforced-concrete cylindrical trussing…. In turn, the truss is held aloft by four concrete piers.”
The roof tiles soon shifted with the frost, however, and damaged the interior ceiling. The tiles were replaced by a synthetic plastic resin. The art glass windows were installed many years after the building was completed and were not designed by Wright.
Location: 9400 West Congress Street, Wauwatosa, Wisconson 53225
Open to the public. Tours are generally not available; tours for 15 or more are available by appointment only.
William Allin Storrer, The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright (1995), #399.
Robin Langley Sommer, “Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church,” Frank Lloyd Wright: A Gatefold Portfolio (1997), no page number.