Tag Archives: Frank Lloyd Wright

Our Lady of the Good News Brings Stunning Architecture


A graceful, elegant project started like something akin to a Blade Runner plot. For a decade the residents had watched over the “End of the World” from their neighborhood. Then it was time for them to gather, to discuss how best to address one of Estroil, Portugal’s last slums. The result was a project called the Senhora da Boa Nova, or Our Lady of the Good News.


Photos Courtesy Joao Morgado - Architectural Photography

This precise project includes a church, a community center (providing jobs and childcare to some of the slum’s former residents), a primary school, and an auditorium. The church contains 1,200 seats, while the auditorium contains 600.

“The key conceptual elements were two empty spaces: the courtyard, a place where the community could meet; and the nave, a sacred space presenting that which could not be presented,” according to the designers, the Lisbon, Portugal-based Roseta Vaz Monteiro architecture firm.


The designers’ respect for context is one of the most redeeming aspects of this project. The program surrounds a courtyard and opens to valley and sea views. The courtyard connects to the city’s nearby public spaces. From beyond, the church’s tower stretches upward to become an iconic reference. Meanwhile windows placed mindfully along the horizontal and vertical axes throughout the building’s interiors allow more of the compound’s outdoor essence inside.



Photos Courtesy Joao Morgado - Architectural Photography

The more I take in the building, the more its cleanliness reminds me of Frank Lloyd Wright. Yet its sweeping geometric tension reminds me of Mexican architects such as Luis Barragan. The strict whiteness of its facades mimics the purity of any deistic belief. The curves possess godly grace like the moments after mass. The character of the building doesn’t blatantly bespeak its religious purposes nor the often bland aesthetic of community centers; therefore its composition appeals. It harkens to visitors. I, for sure, want to ramble along the campus, to listen to sermons reverberating off the walls’ curves, to witness light bouncing off the ceiling’s ripples.

The Senhora da Boa Nova might surely be a journey into something divine.


This originally published in Perspective, a Hong Kong-based international design magazine.



Kubala Washatko Architects Unites with Frank Lloyd Wright


A religious National Historic Landmark designed by Frank Lloyd Wright gets a facelift with swoon-worthy curvilinear composition.

When administrators of the First Unitarian Society Meeting House in Madison, Wisc., wanted to build an addition onto its National Historic Landmark designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, they chose Cedarburg, Wisc.-based Kubala Washatko Architects to complete it in time for the building’s 60th anniversary. After all, it’s so easy for additions from disparate architectural eras to turn out poorly. In this case, KWA’s ability to extend Wright’s organic nature achieved breathtaking, almost seamless results.

Photos Courtesy of Kubala Washatko Architects

Wright’s massive A-frame appears like a pair of folded hands, a concept rarely achieved so articulately in religious institutes. Windows jut out horizontally from it like another pair of hands in prayer. On other façades, however, KWA used soothing curvilinear rhythms, the effect not of stark contrast but of gentle complement.

“Our religious work is concerned not with creating architectural monuments, but rather with supporting a healthy and inviting environment that contributes to the life of the congregation and its community,” according to KWA’s collateral materials. The firm seems a natural choice, pun recognized, for the congregation, which is said to be pro-environment.

The 20,000-square-foot addition includes spaces for a 500-seat auditorium, office and meeting rooms, a kitchen, fellowship gatherings, and music rehearsal. The LEED gold-certified addition, one of the 2011 American Institute of Architects Committee of the Environment Top Ten Green Project winners, is said to be approximately 40 percent more efficient than a comparable facility. The new building design features recycled content and locally-sourced materials. Carbon monoxide sensors trigger a ventilation system that provides energy savings when spaces are unoccupied. More than 90 percent of the regularly occupied areas are daylit. The addition nearly doubles the building’s footprint, and the vegetated roof and a reduction in parking spaces actually increases the percentage of pervious vegetated surface on the property.

This duo’s eco-ties obviate themselves and their respect for Wright in the design’s curvi-linear qualities, reaching verticality, and copious amounts of light, warm woods. KWA used red pine support posts from sustainably forested Menominee Indian lands in northeastern Wisconsin.