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.
Mount Calvary Lutheran Church, 1956, at 436 S. Beverly Drive.
One of DC’s more interesting corporate office buildings, the National Association of Broadcasters sits at the corner of N Street and 17th Street, NW. The architects were Mills Petticord & Mills who also did this DC Brutalist design. Loren Sage designed the fountain in the large front plaza. Unfortunately this building is threatened with inappropriate alteration.
Read more about it here.
A quick visit to this church, which has been closed since 2015 due to continued parish mergers across the city. The building is a little dour with a dark brick facade with white concrete accents. However this is set off by the brick patterned bell tower which is quite unusual for New York City. I could not locate a cornerstone to verify the date of construction but the school for the parish was built in 1953.
Built in 1966, St. Andrew’s Lutheran is a modest structure, topped with a six-sided cupola that brings light in through blue and white colored glass.
Unfortunately, this post is to celebrate a unique modern synagogue that is imminently destined for the wrecking ball. Designed by the underrated Davis, Brody, and Wisnieski, the oval sanctuary is sited at one end of the complex with a connector through administrative spaces and ending in the educational wing.
The sanctuary walls are faced in brightly colored glass or plastic tiles that cause the interior to glow. Other details including wooden pews and decoration typical of the period and a striking ceiling pattern.
The loss of Emanu-El, whose shrinking congregation has merged with another nearby, mirrors the closure of other synagogues in Eastern Queens and Long Island as demographics shift and populations age.
This is a rare modern building in this area of Maryland and even more unusual, designed by an immigrant female architect who brought Corbusian principles to her work. Poldi Hirsch based her practice in this small town and designed several buildings over her career, most notably her own family residence and this office building for her husband’s medical practice. Both remain today.
The building is nestled among a district of primarily Victorian style mansions and stands out for its completely modern style. The design uses colorful paneling, cinder block construction with brick facing, and a swooping entrance canopy. While there seems to be deferred maintenance on the building, it’s still in use and hopefully is appreciated for its uniqueness.
If you’ve been following this website, you’ve probably noticed it’s not updated much these days. Part of the reason for that is that we’ve been busy with another of our projects, Queens Modern. Through the support of the James Marston Fitch Foundation, a new section of the Queens Modern site has been completed, which examines two dozen architectural firms that were active in the mid-century. Head over to queensmodern.com and check it out! More Mid-Century Mundane content to come later.
Thanks for reading!
Today’s entry is not so mundane, but when a longtime reader sends photos your way of a building like this, you post them. Thanks to David L. for the images.
Architect Victor Lundy is famed for his designs, many in Florida as part of the Sarasota School, but examples exist all over the world. He was particularly proficient in church design and here we have Gloria Dei, a wood frame structure with a soaring central steeple. Many of his church designs feature unusual roofs and this is no exception.
The church is on Anna Maria Island off the coast of Sarasota. The main feature is laminated beams which bear the weight of the roof. These beams were recently fumigated as they had attracted termites over the years. Here’s to another 50 years for Gloria Dei.
Bounded by the same block on either side of the Hudson Valley Community Center sit two mid-century synagogues.
Temple Beth-El is a conservative congregation along S. Grand Avenue. The complex sits back from the street behind a parking lot and winding drive to a flat-roofed porte-cochere at the entrance. The structure is faced in red brick with a decorative window and panels fronting the sanctuary toward the street.
Schrome Israel sits close the street on Park Avenue. It is an Orthodox congregation that has had many homes; this one dates from 1968 and is of a severe design. The most prominent feature is an undulating wall of bright blue brick alongside Park Avenue topped by a flat projecting roofline supported by square pillars in dark brick. The rest of the structure seems fairly utilitarian but this pop of color brings visual interest to the modest building.