When God Went Mod - Page 2

Once despised, modern churches have thrived—designed by many of the same architects who shaped mid-century suburbia
When God Went Mod
Anshen and Allen's Central Methodist Episcopal Church, Stockton.
When God Went Mod
Cadet Chapel—once called "a monstrosity" and "a row of polished teepees."
When God Went Mod
Jones & Emmons' St. Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church,
Studio City.

Many of the same architects who were designing suburban homes were also designing churches. It's not surprising that some of the more imaginative mid-century architects who worked in California, including those who designed tract homes for Joe Eichler, created some of their best work in churches: Anshen and Allen, Jones & Emmons, Pietro Belluschi, and Aaron Green.

The variety that can be enjoyed in modern churches is apparent throughout California. Forms range from parabolic and catenary-curve roofs, to churches that appear to be all steeple, to Brutalist-style structures that look like concrete bunkers from the exterior while providing moody, mystical spaces with splashes of light within.

Other churches looked like freestanding sculptures. Bob Anshen and Steve Allen designed one of these in 1957, and it has become iconic—the Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona, Arizona. A striking Catholic church on an imposing site, along the side of a red rock mesa, the chapel has become a top tourist spot in a town known for spiritual tourism.

And in Stockton, for the Central Methodist Episcopal Church, Anshen and Allen produced a church in 1964 that remains loved by its congregation today, using a form that is typical of many mid-century modern churches—the reaching-for-the-sky spire.

For the same church, they also used an uncommon, perhaps unique form—an undulating rib-like frame that can be seen inside the chapel and the community room. The ribs are visible on the outside as well, in the almost Eichler-like atrium that separates the two interior spaces. The church has been compared to a fish and to an upturned boat.

A. Quincy Jones and Frederick Emmons created another unusual form, for their Congregational Church of Northridge in Southern California—a tent-like pyramidal roof. It's a striking image, if a bit off-putting. Is it a gimmick?

No. Like many modern churches, like many modern houses, this one requires a visit inside. It is warm and enveloping, with fine detailing and a soaring ceiling. Walls of glass beneath the roof admit light and provide views of nature. A true indoor-outdoor church.