The Dean’s Equity and Inclusion Initiative, a partnership of now over two dozen U.S. schools and colleges of architecture, landscape architecture, planning, preservation, and design, welcomes a second cohort of 17 early career faculty to the scholarly development program.
The history of American Unitarian church architecture is one that’s lesser-known. With this in mind, Ann Marie Borys, associate professor of architecture, wanted to provide context for two extremely highly regarded Unitarian projects of the 20th century that had only been written about independently. Her new book explores how they fit into the broader scope of Unitarian churches.
“American Unitarian Churches: Architecture of a Democratic Religion” explores Unitarian church design and the progressive ideals shown through them — ideals that were central to the founding of the United States. By situating Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple and Louis Kahn’s First Unitarian Church of Rochester in their full context, Borys writes about the interconnectedness of American democracy and American architecture.
We asked Borys about the book.
Why did you want to write this book?
I initiated the research in an effort to provide context for two extremely highly regarded architectural projects of the 20th century. Each one had been written about independently with regard to its place in the architect’s creative oeuvre and its “moment” in American architecture. And they had sometimes been discussed in relation to each other (though separated by 50 years) because they were both Unitarian churches. But there was very little written about how they fit into the broader scope of Unitarian churches.
I soon discovered that there were quite a lot of Unitarian churches from both the 19th and 20th centuries that were also architecturally significant. So the book that emerged became a narrative of Unitarian church design as a central factor in the development of American architecture itself.
Why has this contribution not been evident in narratives of American architectural history previously? Why is it important to bring this to light?
A simplistic explanation is that architectural history was first developed as a chronology of styles, and then a narrative of architect-heros. It was in the later part of the 20th century that larger social and cultural patterns began to be studied. By then, Unitarianism represented a very small portion of the population, and it was not widely understood to have historical roots connected with those of the country itself.
It is important partly because there are some misconceptions about the two buildings that prompted my research—Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple, and Louis Kahn’s First Unitarian Church of Rochester. But more broadly speaking, it is important because it adds a significant body of work to an issue of theoretical importance: What is an ‘architecture of democracy’?
What’s the connection between faith and architecture?
This is a trick question with respect to Unitarian churches. Most faiths build churches that support specific rituals spatially, that express beliefs symbolically, and that aspire to place the church-goers in some relation to the divine. Unitarianism is unusual because it has never had rituals, and in the 20th century, the question of religious belief was transferred from clergy to the individuals. So there can be a wide variety of beliefs in any congregation. This makes the design of a memorable architectural space more difficult.
What elements of Unitarian spirituality are expressed through the architecture of its churches?
I found three things to be in the foreground of Unitarian churches: awareness of nature and with that, the interconnectedness of all things; respect for the individual coupled with responsibility for others; and the necessity for individuals to share knowledge and ideas in a community.
How are the ideals/values of Unitarianism shown through the design of their buildings/spaces?
The awareness of nature and natural processes is evident either directly through generous views promoting connection between the sanctuary and surrounding gardens or natural features or it is present through daylight and through the use of natural materials. Respect for the individual and for individual choice is evident in the way that doors into the sanctuary are located as one choice among others, and in the non-hierarchical arrangement of space in the sanctuary. The necessity to share ideas for the enrichment of all is present in the provision of ample social spaces in addition to a space for worship.
The combination of these features creates an architecture of democracy.
What do you hope readers take away from this book?
I hope that readers will understand that Unitarianism was a mainstream denomination in America throughout the 19th century, and that many of our country’s progressive social and cultural advancements were led by Unitarians. I hope that they will be able to appreciate how Unitarianism remains true to its original philosophies and values–values which were formed along with and were practically identical to the American democratic ideals articulated by the founding documents of this country. I hope they will understand that Unitarianism is a democratic religion, and that its architecture is an expression of authentically American ideals.
Congratulations to this year’s graduates and also to those from 2020 and 2021! Even with all of the changes that the past two years have brought us, our community has continued to be resilient, creative, passionate, and kind. Here’s what we’re celebrating and looking forward to.
Dear CBE Community,
Congratulations on completing the 2022 academic year! Even with all of the changes that the past two years have brought us, our community has continued to be resilient, creative, passionate, and kind. These graduates are where they are today not only because of their hard work but because of the support that you have provided to them.
A few points of celebration for our community this year:
We had three students named to the 2020 Husky 100 awards and two students named to the 2021 and 2022 Husky 100 awards.
We completed a first-ever cohort hire, bringing on 6 new faculty – which is an important part of our strategic framework to grow our capacity for collaborative interdisciplinary work with the goal of advancing climate solutions.
And we continued to impact the broader community through work like the Nehemiah studio, work with the Duwamish Longhouse, and coastal communities facing rising sea levels.
CBE graduates are well prepared to continue the high caliber of work that genuinely connects their skills to meet community needs and develop innovative solutions to society’s grand challenges. We are proud to send you out to do good things as individuals and as a collective.
I also want to take a moment to recognize and congratulate all of the incredible faculty and staff at our college. Announced during our CBE graduation celebration, this year’s award recipients have distinguished themselves beyond all expectations. These are highly competitive awards with many worthy nominations.
After you read about our Faculty and Staff award winners, I invite you to click the link below to view the photos taken and watch our CBE graduation celebration with guest speaker, Dr. Anu Taranath.
John and Rosalind Jacobi Family Endowed Dean
College of Built Environments
Faculty and Staff Awards
This award is nominated and decided by students in the College of Built Environments. The Lionel “Spike” Pries Award For Teaching Excellence recognizes outstanding teaching by faculty within the College during the academic year.
Kimo is recognized for being an inspiring, knowledgeable, and respectful professor who encourages his students to strive for their best — seeing the potential each student has and pushing them to be better.
The Outstanding Faculty Award recognizes a full-time faculty member who has made most notable contributions in their field or the community in research and/or service, to their department or college, or to students through teaching and/or service during the past academic year.
Gundula is commended for her internationally recognized interdisciplinary research, mentoring and supervising students, advocating for interdisciplinary research in architecture and the built environment, cross-college collaborations, and her engagement in our college community.
The Outstanding Part-Time Teaching Award goes to a part-time faculty member who has made the most notable contributions as a teacher during this academic year. The award recognizes the significant contributions made by part-time faculty members in teaching and acknowledges that the reputation of the college depends on the quality of the educational experience provided by them.
Steve is known for putting interest, care, and time into each student’s work and projects. He gives extra hours of his time all with a smile on his face to support students. He is an incredibly knowledgeable, helpful, and enthusiastic member of CBE who is highly regarded among students and faculty.
The Distinguished Staff Award is intended to recognize the recipient’s extraordinary contributions to the College in the past academic year. The nominee should contribute to a positive collegial environment for the benefit of faculty, staff, and students, with a focus on promoting unity and communication as well as demonstrating an extraordinary level of commitment, leadership, and cooperation.
Jamilah has been a steadfast leader and accountable team player since day one at the College of Built Environments. During her two years with the college, everyone who has had the privilege of working alongside Jamilah knows that she can be counted on as an exemplary collaborator who delivers excellent work to achieve shared goals.
Gregg Colburn, assistant professor of real estate, provides answers to frequently asked questions about housing and homelessness. | The Atlantic
I am excited to share that Steven Bourassa will take on the role of Chair of the Runstad Department of Real Estate. For the past 7 years, he has been Chair of the Department of Urban Design and Planning at Florida Atlantic University, starting August 8, 2022, he will join our college as department Chair and Jon and Judith Runstad Endowed Professor.
Throughout his career, he has led programs that combine real estate development, housing, and planning, at institutions in the US, Australia, and New Zealand. In addition to leading the department, Steven will build on and elevate the Runstad Department’s research strengths in housing prices and tenure, land tenure, and property taxes. His most recent work includes collaboration with finance and planning scholars on the use of big data in housing value. I am confident that Steven’s expertise and leadership will move the department toward even greater success in the years ahead.
I want to thank the search committee for their excellent work in bringing such a strong slate of candidates and hosting robust conversations on the leadership needs of the department. I would like to thank Professor Sofia Dermisi for her strong leadership of the department faculty as Acting Chair over the past year. Finally, I appreciate the energy and engagement of the students and the Runstad Advisory Board.
I think the future is bright and I look forward to seeing how the department’s next phases unfold.
John and Rosalind Jacobi Family Endowed Dean
College of Built Environments
UW CBE students and faculty collaborated with the Nehemiah Initiative to help institutions in historically Black communities like churches and the people they serve survive rapid socioeconomic change. | UW Magazine
James Young, director of the Washington Center for Real Estate Research, provides insight into why condominiums in Seattle have become rare and expensive. | KUOW
The University of Washington recognized two students from the College of Built Environments for the 2022 Husky 100. Congratulations to Talia Kertsman and Andrew Hengstler!
Talia Kertsman, Community, Environment, and Planning major
“I came to the UW seeking a depth of understanding around questions keeping me up at night – questions about the future of cities and how to sustain belonging in all spaces. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to grow in Seattle and learn from those working to preserve spaces of cultural value. I hope to work at the intersection of equitable community development and education, thinking about how students and educators can co-create spaces of learning, inside and outside the classroom.”
Andrew Hengstler, Construction Management major
“Strong communities promote positive progress. I have focused my years at the UW working to foster this sense of community, empowering others to rally and grow together. Within my career, I seek to develop built environments that encourage community collaboration, where people are not separated by class or culture. By creating environmentally and socially sustainable habitats, we can both protect nature and preserve our vital sense of community.”
The Husky 100 recognizes 100 UW undergraduate and graduate students who are making the most of their time at the UW. Those named include undergraduates and graduate students who have founded start-ups, conducted research, and advocated for social justice.
Mariam Kamara, UW Department of Architecture alumna and Niger-based architect, discusses her revolutionary approaches to architecture pedagogy and design. | Metropolis