Wednesday, May 30, 2012

THE SINS OF MODERNIST CHURCH ARCHITECTS...

...shall be visited upon the children.

35 comments:

Free Range Anglican said...

Wow, its not every day that the same image can be worthy of a place on both BadVestments and CakeWrecks. Impressive.

The Underground Pewster said...

Over 10 Billion served! Super sized Communion wafers at the Silver Arches.

Tina aka Snupnjake said...

That is St. Anselm in St. Louis. The church inside is stark, but in the round. It's run by the Benedictines. Mass there is reverent and correct. They also host an EF Oratory.

I'm not a big fan of this architecture...but at least it looks like a church, and a Catholic one at that. Whereas many of the modern churches I've seen look rather like banquet halls...

Christopher Johnson said...

I agree that church is way more than the building it meets in. And I don't think that's actually the worst one around here. What's funny is that this town has some of the most mind-blowingly beautiful Catholic churches to be found anywhere in the world. But the major problem with that design(and once again, aesthetics are all I'm interested in here) is that it dates itself. Churches ought to strive for the eternal.

Tina aka Snupnjake said...

Yes. I agree.

Also, we have some mind-blowing awesome churches that they have done horrid, horrid things to.
www.romeofthewest.com has some.

And this plucky young woman has been going to every church in the diocese.
viewfrombackpew.blogspot.com She's got about 20 to go.

Janis Williams said...

Wow! The orchestra shell from Sydney on hormones!

BerlinerinPoet said...

I thought it looked like the Sidney Opera House too!

D said...

Holy bundt cake...

JBazChicago said...

How is it modernist?
Is the rule of thumb, "if it's not Byzantine, Romanesque, Gothic, or a permutation of any of those styles, it's modern?

It is an UTTERLY BRILLIANT CHURCH inside an out. I'm not saying you have to like it. But it is entirely TRADITIONAL in many ways. It could be said it follows the lines of a Traditional Cistercian Romanesque design with the simple and stark Romanesque (parabolic) arches. It has a functioning bell-tower with real bells. It has EXCELLENT acoustics, particularly for Gregorian Chant in Latin which the monks do pray, along with other offices in English but always chanted recto tono..and rather well too (6 second reverb, I believe). The high ceiling with a clerestory window over the High Altar (9 ton granite altar, one solid piece) with the traditional 3 steps. There are side altars in each of the translucent windows.

It has a retro choir for the monastic community, so it is arguably not a true "church in the round" at all, though the Church is round. It has a full ambulatory, and a very fine full tracker organ made in Austria which is sought after by fine organists.

The Abbey Church which is used by St. Anselm at the Abbey Parish (Archdiocese of St. Louis), has immense room for all the monastic rites and rituals, as well as the Traditional Latin Mass as well as the Novus Ordo (though the TLM is currently in a chapel elsewhere on campus due to a crowded Mass schedule).

SO the only people who call it "Modernist" are people who prattle endless, mind-numbing baseless statements exposing a very limited understanding and knowledge of "traditional" and a narrow definition of what is considered "modernist" and which must always be necessarily "bad".

(And for the record, I attend exclusively, the Traditional Latin Mass, so I'm no friend of the liberal movement or the Bugnini Table Service of 1970.

Anonymous said...

This church fits in with the other churches in the area in terms of their architectural style - most of them have that "built-in-the-1960s" look to them. I can think of only the nearby Greek Orthodox church and the LDS temple that have a more timeless design.

Can't really make snarky comments on this one - my church meets in essentially an office building.

Anglican-at-last

Max Hernandez said...

Whether or not the HOK (one of the largest architectural firms in the world) erred on this groundbreaking project I find to be an irrelevant question. What matter more is what goes on inside that church and who its "children" are. The children of Saint Louis abbey are some of the foremost traditional Catholics in the country. At the University level, they have brought a restoration of the liturgy to numerous campuses across the country.

The monks of Saint Louis Abbey maintain the traditions of Gregorian Chant and have a large following of youth each year for tenebrae.

Further, they have some of the most beautiful vestments which are being made these days. They have been featured on the New Liturgical Movement and elsewhere.

Further, I've been present at funeral classes in the Extraordinary Form in that church, and though the architecture isn't your average 19th century form, the liturgy can be very reverent.

Be careful who you criticize because in this case, you've hit the abbey that is at the heart of the restoration of the sacred in this country.

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of a parish church in my neck of the woods. I'm glad that what goes on inside is traditional, but the outside effect is not good.

JBazChicago said...

Anonymous....
You don't have to like it, like I iterated, but the outside effect is quite TRADITIONAL and EXCELLENT.

People on here are picture book people. Learn a little about Church History, and what MAKES good architecture, then maybe you'll understand this is an excellent example of traditional architecture using modern methods, and a fine example of a Traditional Church in a contemporary milieu.

Gail Finke said...

Glad to hear it's nice inside. On the outside, it looks like a ruffled petticote or a ballerina's tutu! Or possibly an Elizabethan ruff. Wowl

Anonymous said...

The community of worship may be wonderful, mass may be uplifting, but my first impression is : "look! The aliens have landed."

Although the tutu is also a good thought.

LittleRed1

ed pacht said...

One may not like the exterior view. Frankly I don't. But this is a successful liturgical building, far more so than many more conventional structures. Look at that exterior and imagine the interior it clothes. There's no question but that the inside space and its use was the first consideration - as it should be. The few pictures I've been able to find of the interior aeem to confirm what I expected to see, and, from the parish website, it seems to be a building consciously built for and used in much better than ordinary liturgy.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad it works inside. Outside it lookes like a chysanthemum.
CathyJ

C. C. said...

Is it a crashed UFO? Is it a circus tent?

Rob said...

I don't like it, and I'm hardly a picture book critic of the building. I've been in St. Louis Abbey church more times than I care to recall; prayed in it; sung in it and played the organ many times. I still don't like the place.

Despite the endless McDonald's arches, the church is, unfortunately, a dated example of the Brutalist period. The exterior is bizarre looking and the interior is blinding white and flat with colorless, opaque glass or translucent, poly panels . The interior lacks any bit of color or warmth unless bunting is hung up somewhere.

The acoustical reverberation overwhelms out of proportion when the building is empty of people, but yet somehow and oddly there is not enough reverberation when the building is full.

The building design or construction actually owes nothing to the Romanesque, even in interpretation. In construction the building owes a great deal to an interpretation of the Eskimo igloo. The arches were made of sprayed, liquid cement and concrete shot onto panels and steel rebar.

I could go on, but mercifully will not. The building never grew on me despite many visits. I just think of the thing as an odd one-off.

Anonymous said...

Point: Parabolic arches are not romanesque, Eutruscan maybe, but the Romans perfected the half round arch and used it extensively.

Anonymous said...

Yes, indeed there is much regarding this Benedictine community to commend. But the cold sterility of the interior of the Abbey Church is not one of them.

WTF

Fr. Caleb said...

The Christian architectural tradition is to be contemporary, to be of their time, even if built in revival styles in periods of such architecture. There is no one "Christian style" against which one can be measured, only does it serve the liturgy and does it give expression to both the timeless faith and the current mileau.

Recall the 12th century?
How quickly the traditional Romanesque was abandoned for the modernist, contemporary Gothic with all its pointy arches. By the 18th century that was old hat and classic revival, columns, pediments and domes, became the rage. Someday this church will be considered traditional and old fashioned, as styles move on.

Anonymous said...

Eye of the beholder etc. I suppose. I personally find the interior cold and I have great difficulty connecting with God's presence there. Rather than using their talents to help worshipers connect with God I feel like most (but not all) contemoprary ecclesiastical architects and artists want to club us over the head.

WTF

pelerin said...

Inspired by barnacles!

Sarah Palin said...

To me it looks like a split-level igloo with multiple entrance portals. (I'm guessing the top level is for Ptarmagans.) The ice sculpture spire lifts it far above the common igloo. A consecrated igloo here. Catholic Eskimos probably want it moved to Anchorage.

Maria said...

I'm from Sydney... and this is ghastly and ostentacious! I respect comments from those familiar with the community of faith that tradition is followed. To this end, I'm reminded of the the old saying: "not to judge a book by its cover" BUT the truth of this holy matter is that the outside should reflect the inside and vice versa.

Anonymous said...

My first thought was: Someone took some dozen of zeppelin-hangars (think WWI) and tacked them together.

However, there are way worse buildings out there. If the interior is filled with reverence and holiness, I'm ready to ignore exterior faults.

Zwetschgenkrampus

Denita Arnold said...

Ok, maybe it's more traditional inside, but does the outside have to look like the old Panther Hall theater in Fort Worth, TX?
(which had been torn down BTW)

Kevin-O said...

I've seen this church before and it is Saint Anselm's Abbey Church for the Benedictine community in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. What I wish I could see is the interior and how it looks from inside to the outside. It definitely has a more modern flair to it; one could propose that it picks up the tent theme from the Old Testament calling to mind the ever wandering Jews in the desert or it could also be seen as picking up the ship theme of the Church which was quite popular in 15th century art. I note that one of the comments about the place from the natives is that the area has a lot of churches which look similar and in particular is near one of the orthodox churches. In this instance, it would fit in with that church because the multiple domes are a counterpart to the domes of a decent orthodox church. While I care for a more neo-gothic structure myself, I am intrigued by this one and would like to see the interior as I mentioned above.

Cantor Nikolaos said...

Here's my solution for all the ugly, bizarre, grotesque architecture. We do to it what Stalin did the the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow.

Anonymous said...

chacun a son gout-ca va? ettu

Nancy said...

I wondered where my jello mold had got to.

Warren A. said...

It's good to hear that the liturgies are respectable.

That said, and all personal preferences aside, the Catholic ethos, if you will, is best represented by the cruciform floor plan: nave, transept, sanctuary, apse.

1. The Mass starts at the foot of the cross and journeys (processes) to the head who is Christ. The idea of procession conveys something of the movement of worship in and through Christ to the Father and hints at the circumincession of the Divine Persons.

2. Catholic churches are like ships, hence the term "nave", (Medieval Latin navis, "ship"). We "board" the ship and sail toward the rising sun, Christ. Hence, ad orientem worship is the appropriate Catholic (Latin Rite) mode and not worship in the round.

3. Vaults or arches convey a sense of transcendence or movement to the heavens.

One could go on, but suffice to say one of the reasons Catholics suffer an identity crisis is because they have forgotten or tossed out the art (i.e., the language of art, architecture, music) which defines who we are. Catholic art is theology. It's not much of a stretch to see why art and architecture has suffered when one takes note of the weak theology in play for the past 40 years.

Christopher T. Mahoney said...

Having grown up Catholic in Northern Virginia, I am a connoisseur of late 20th century Catholic architecture. Theory: When the CofE seized all of the RCC's churches in 1600, it appropriated good architectural taste. That left the RCs grasping for their "own" architecture. This is why every RC church in the anglosaxon world is so ugly--because they didn't want them to be mistaken for an Episcopal church. The Episcopals have taken this ball and run with it. Compare the National Cathedral to the National Shrine of the I.C. in DC. They took our architecture and left us with Modern Mosque.

Alice Polarbear said...

I am from the Alpha Centuri galaxy. Take me to your leader. It's been a long trip and I want to get out of my aluminum foil jumpsuit.