Seeker of Light: Re-Viewing Louis Kahn’s First Unitarian Church

Seeker of Light: Re-Viewing Louis Kahn’s First Unitarian Church

In Burned Over: on the search for some of Rochester’s most sacred Christian sites, George Payne looked at churches across Rochester.

Immanuel Baptist Temple by the Genesee Riverway Trail

Immanuel Baptist Temple by the Genesee Riverway Trail. From Burned Over: on the search for some of Rochester’s most sacred Christian sites

In Five Versions of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Boynton House, George looked at Frank Lloyd Wright’s modernist creation on East Boulevard.

Today, George combines the themes of modernism and the sacred in a study of the First Unitarian Church on South Winton Road.

Seeker of Light: Re-Viewing Louis Kahn’s First Unitarian Church

All photography by George Cassidy Payne

According to ArchDaily, Louis Kahn (February 20th 1901 – March 17th 1974) was one of the United States’ greatest 20th century architects, known for combining Modernism with the weight and dignity of ancient monuments. Though he did not arrive at his distinctive style until his early 50s, and despite his death at the age of just 73, in a span of just two decades Kahn came to be considered by many as part of the pantheon of modernist architects which included Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe. (


From the back left side near the gardens

 Designed by Louis Kahn, First Unitarian Church is regularly visited and studied by architects, students, and tourists from around the world. In 2014, the church was added to the list of U.S. National Register of Historic Places.  (


The extensive garden areas that surround the First Unitarian Church were developed over the past thirty years largely through the efforts of the late Madlyn Evans.

Every building must have… its own soul.
Louis Kahn


From the parking lot looking at the front entrance

Architecture is the thoughtful making of spaces. It is the creating of spaces that evoke a feeling of appropriate use. – Louis Kahn


From the front left side


From the church’s backyard

The Louis Kahn building has been described as one of “the most significant works of religious architecture of the [20th] century” and as “the only building of international significance” in Monroe County.  (

You say to a brick, ‘What do you want, brick?’ And brick says to you, “I like an arch.” And you say to brick, “Look, I want one, too, but arches are expensive and I can use a concrete lintel.'”And then you say: “What do you think of that, brick?” Brick says: “I like an arch.”
Louis Kahn


Front doors

Design is not making beauty, beauty emerges from selection, affinities, integration, love. Louis Kahn


From the garden looking at the side and back

Architecture is the thoughtful making of space. Louis Kahn

DSCF0325 Sculpture piece in the front entrance


Burned Over: on the search for some of Rochester’s most sacred Christian sites

About The Author

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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