Mid-20th century sacred architecture in America sought to bridge modernism with religion by abstracting cultural and faith traditions and pushing the envelope in the design of houses of worship. Modern architects embraced the challenges of creating sacred spaces that incorporated liturgical changes, evolving congregations, modern architecture, and innovations in building technology.
The book describes the unique context and design aspects of the departure from historicism, and the renewal of heritage and traditions with ground-breaking structural features, deliberate optical effects and modern aesthetics. The contributions, from a pre-eminent group of scholars and practitioners from the US, Australia, and Europe are based on original archival research, historical documents, and field visits to the buildings discussed. Investigating how the authority of the divine was communicated through new forms of architectural design, these examinations map the materiality of liturgical change and communal worship during the mid-20th century.
Table of Contents
Introduction: The Sacred Space Anat Geva Part I Modernists and Sacred Architecture 1 Minimal Ritual: Mies van der Rohe's Chapel of St. Savior, 1952 Ross Anderson 2 Religious Freedom and Architectural Ambition at Vassar College, 1945–54 Lindsay Cook 3 Tuskegee University’s Second Chapel – A Departure and a Continuation Arthur Clement and Roderick Fluker Part II The Parabola, Concrete, and Modern Sacred Architecture 4 Bold Modern Form: The Parabola and St. Louis’s Sacred Buildings Mary Reid Brunstrom 5 The Structural Modeling and Design of Saint Mary's Cathedral, San Francisco, 1963–71 Gabriele Neri 6 Charles Haertling’s St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church, Northglenn, Colorado, 1963–64 Heather Seneff 7 A Monumental Absence: Paul Rudolph's Christian Science Building, 1965 (demolished 1985) Scott Murray Part III Denominations, Identity, and Modern Sacred Architecture 8 Creating Sacred Spaces in the Suburbs: Roman Catholic Architecture in Post-war Los Angeles, 1948–76 Michael J. Gibson 9 Critiquing Modernism: The Unorthodox Orthodox, 1950s–1960s Dean G. Lampros 10 J. Eugene Wukasch and Mid-century Lutheran Architecture in Texas, 1950–70 Jason John Paul Haskins 11 The Nexus between Lithuanian Vernacular and American Modernism Milda Richardson Part IV Modern Interiors and Liturgical Fittings 12 Seeing, not Knowing: Symbolism, Art, and "Opticalism" in Mid-century American Religious Architecture Jeremy Kargon 13 The Sanctuary Wall: Unitarian Rationalism Illuminated Ann Marie Borys 14 Tradition and Transcendence: Eero Saarinen’s MIT Chapel and the Nondenominational Ideal Joseph M. Siry Epilogue Philip James Tabb
Anat Geva is a registered architect and a Professor of Architecture at Texas A&M University, where she teaches design, sacred architecture, history of building technology, and preservation. She has a long list of publications including a book, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Sacred Architecture: Faith, Form, and Building Technology, published in 2012. She co-founded and co-edited the journal of the National Council of Preservation Education, Preservation Education & Research (PER), and was a co-editor of ARRIS (SESAH’s Journal). She was one of the founders of the Forum on Architecture, Culture, and Spirituality (ACS) and served as a member on their executive committee. She is the past president of the Southeast Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians (SESAH), and past secretary of the National Council for Preservation Education (NCPE).
"This book engages what may be considered the most innovative, challenging, and experimental period in the history of sacred architecture: mid-20th century America. In the span of a few decades, completely new and hitherto unimaginable examples of sacred buildings and art came into existence! Perusing the excellent case studies featured in the book makes us not only appreciate the amazing architectural, cultural, liturgical, and theological revolution underway but also understand its major forces, characters, stories, successes, and failures. The text is fascinating, accessible, clear, well organized, and nicely illustrated. The contributors are excellent scholars with high reputations. As a result, Dr. Anat Geva’s book is a tour-de-force for any architecture practitioner, scholar, educator, or student interested in modern and contemporary sacred spaces." - Julio Bermudez, Ph.D. Professor, Director Cultural Studies & Sacred Space Graduate Concentration, The Catholic University of America
"In this significant volume, editor Anat Geva has widened our view of American sacred architecture in the mid-twentieth century with new scholarship that reappraises the promises and limits of modern architecture in our experience of the religious and spiritual. In case studies across 14 chapters, the authors grapple with the application of modernist form, materiality, and art to religious worship, revealing solutions that often bridged modernity and tradition and the local and universal. With new research on Mies van der Rohe, Johnson, Saarinen, Belluschi, Rudolph, and Mendelsohn as well as lesser-known architects, this book challenges us to think anew about how architecture sought to make God immanent to our modern world." - Margaret M. Grubiak, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Architectural History, Villanova University
"For too long, sacred architecture in modernism has been overlooked and underappreciated. Thanks to Professor Geva’s work, that will no longer be the case. This groundbreaking collection raises major issues for continued discussion and exploration." - Ben Heimsath, Principal, Heimsath Architects, Austin, Texas