In Westport and Hartford, Victor Lundy designed dramatic expressions of mid-century Unitarian Universalism.
The Unitarian Society of Hartford, Connecticut. (© Roadsidearchitecture.com)
Separated by sixty-six miles of Connecticut highway, the Unitarian Church in Westport and the Unitarian Society of Hartford have a special connection: the audacious architect Victor Lundy. Born in 1923 and educated at Harvard, Lundy was commissioned at the height of his career to design the two distinct Connecticut sanctuaries.
The Westport building, which Lundy began in 1959 and completed in 1965, rests in a wooded area. Ken Lanouette, a longtime Westport member and acting chair of the architect hiring committee in 1959, said that Lundy was the clear choice. “He swept us off our feet,” Lanouette said. Of the Westport building’s roof (left) with the two separated portions, Lundy said, “The open end, the unresolved—this is all a part of Unitarian Universalism. This is carried out in the roof—in two parts— never quite coming together, and a skylight allowing light to come in.”
In contrast, the 155-member Unitarian Society of Hartford meets in a 350-seat, inward-looking central sanctuary (above). On a grassy seven-acres, the Hartford sanctuary, designed by Lundy in 1962, feels like an “inner sanctum.” Classrooms and meeting spaces surround the sanctuary.
Hartford’s building invites curiosity from passersby and deep reflection within; the Westport location invokes what Lanouette calls “a connection with the outdoors.” “Sitting in the sanctuary, you can see skunks crawling around as the choir rehearses,” he said.
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Kenny Wiley was a UU World senior editor from 2015 to 2018. His writing has also appeared in the Boston Globe, the Houston Chronicle, and Skyd Magazine.
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