Temples for a Modern God: Religious Architecture in Postwar America

By Jay M. Price | Go to book overview

PREFACE

When I was a teenager and started to get a sense of which church buildings were connected to which denominations, it struck me how often the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in which I grew up seemed to have a lot of churches from the 1950s. I grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where my family belonged to Immanuel Lutheran Church, a congregation that worshipped in a John Gaw Meem-designed Pueblo Revival building. As we traveled, however, inevitably we wound up in modern churches from the postwar years, much to my annoyance. Why, I wondered, didn’t we get the beautiful Gothic Revival churches that the Episcopalians or Presbyterians had? Couldn’t we at least have the Colonial-looking churches like the Methodists and the Baptists? It seemed that to locate the Lutheran congregation in a community, you just looked for the ugliest 1950s modern church around. It was the start of a journey, propelling me to wonder why American society built so many of these structures. As I moved for schooling and career, a search for a place of worship often seemed to end in a structure from the 1950s or 1960s. Talking with older congregation members, I learned that these buildings often embodied a set of hopes and aspirations from a time when economic prosperity and technological change seemed to offer limitless possibilities.

I have since come to appreciate and respect the ideals, hopes, and dreams that shaped postwar religious space. Structures I once thought were hideous now strike me as intriguing, quirky, and even amusing. Some are downright powerful. Exploring these buildings is sometimes a lonely endeavor, though, since many friends and colleagues still look very puzzled when I talk about how fascinating the synagogues and churches of the mid-century years can be. I have become accustomed to people wondering why on earth I wanted to photograph “that thing,” especially if it was near a late nineteenth-century Gothic Revival church that seemed, to them, far more photogenic.

-ix-

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Temples for a Modern God: Religious Architecture in Postwar America
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Introduction 2
  • Chapter 1 - The Search for a Better Church Building 20
  • Chapter 2 - The Postwar House of Worship 48
  • Chapter 3 - Postwar Religious Building 78
  • Chapter 4 - Making a Modern Church Still Look like a Church 118
  • Chapter 5 - "Let’s Stop Building Cathedrals" 146
  • Conclusion - An Unappreciated Legacy 172
  • Notes 187
  • Bibliography 233
  • Index 247
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