An important part of the Mid-Century Mundane study has been houses of worship. On November 22nd, I will be presenting a talk, The Architecture of Catholic Modernism In New York State: From Post War to Vatican II, as part of the New York State History Conference. More information can be found here. I will be discussing how church architecture evolved in New York State after World War II and how the Vatican II convening brought about an embrace of modern design in the building of churches. Featured prominently will be the work of John O’Malley, the architect for close to 100 Catholic buildings in New York City and Long Island, including American Martyrs Catholic Church, pictured above.
As Archtober, join Queens Modern for a tour of the Roman Catholic Church of the Transfiguration, a unique structure in Queens’ Maspeth neighborhood, combining mid-century design and Lithuanian folk elements. Constructed in 1962 to designs by Lithuanian architect Jonas Mulokas, the church received an honorable mention from the Queens Chamber of Commerce Building Awards program. The interior was created by one of the most renowned 20th century Lithuanian artists, Vytautas Kazimieras Jonynas, who designed interiors for more than 60 churches across the world.
Learn more and purchase tickets here.
This addition to an existing branch of the Five Cents Savings Bank in the heart of historic downtown Boston was constructed in 1972 to designs of Kallman, McKinnell & Knowles. This prolific local firm is most well known for the Brutalist masterpiece, Boston City Hall and plaza.
When the bank left this branch, Walgreens moved in. Unusually, they decided to maintain and restore the soaring interior and striking exterior, keeping many details including the safe and teller section in the older building. The interior ceiling alone is worth a stop inside.
We’ve previously covered the Church of the Epiphany’s exterior (and window salvaged from the previous church). But recently we were about to view the sanctuary. The walls are covered with the same dark brown brick as the exterior and the furnishings were provided by Rambusch Studios.
There are three primary sources of illumination: simple, metal chandeliers, recessed skylights, and four striking abstract stained glass windows.
These windows were designed by the noted Albin Elskus for Durhan Studios in 1966. Each window is dominated by one shade of color: orange, yellow, blue, and purple. The fact that the rest of the sanctuary is so somber, means these windows stand out even more. Definitely worth a visit!
Check out this virtual walk looking at vernacular modernism in Queens’ Forest Hills neighborhood with yours truly!
This is a pretty standard red brick modern complex in Virginia (a state not generally known for its modern). However the segmentation of the rounded sanctuary is a nice design feature which also allows light into the space and the metal steeple is a striking centerpiece.
Looking back two years ago to the Docomomo Symposium in Phoenix, I had a chance to see a lot of high modern including Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West and Paolo Soleri’s experimental Arcosanti.
But beyond that, there is a large body of modest and mainstream modern mixed in to daily life. The church pictured here was designed by one of the most prolific ecclesiastical architects of the mid-century, Harold Wagoner. Through his thought leadership and involvement in designing building programs for several denominations as well as writing for various publications, he was able to become the go-to architect for this work, designing more than 500 buildings in 36 states. His designs run the gamut from strikingly modern to typical revival styles. This one falls in the modern camp.
The main sanctuary at the rear of the campus features a dramatic double height porte cochere. The main buildings are clad in the same stone and blend into the landscape. The more recent multi-sided chapel near the main intersection is also quite striking. Unfortunately we could not see the interiors on this day.