A long while ago, long enough that I don’t recall the time of my life that it was, I had a dream that I was in a large church with graded seating on every side of the sanctuary. It was more of a stadium, though finished as a place of worship. I dreamt it and forgot it. I haven’t thought about it since.
Today I came across this photo on a tangent of an internet search revolving around mid-century modern architecture:
This is the church from my dream. It is the final architectural work of Eero Saarinen – the North Christian Church located in Columbus, Indiana. Its hexagonal sanctuary focuses the congregation inward, symbolically illustrating worship as a core life element for the church.
During the architect scouting process, Eero approached the building committee saying, “What do you want? What do you want it to be? Don’t tell me what you want it to look like, but what you want it to be like.”
This was the resulting answer.
Architectural photographer Matthew Carbone, from whose blog I discovered the photos accompanying this post, described being inside the building as, “Truly beautiful, and at times an other worldly experience.”
I would have to share his sentiments, at least in my dream state (though I now feel a magnetism to the location and perhaps should plan a pilgrimage to the site in order to perceive this physically).
The building’s exterior, which I had never imagined, is harsh though, almost dystopian – as if that of a postmodern shelter in an alien land.
Its low lying eaves conjure the thought that it’s proximately to the earth is held in tension. There is a feel of strain to hold the low slope of the roof’s pitch at it’s level while the steeple, replaced by a spire, protrudes forcefully nearly 200 feet into the sky. It is disconcerting and eerie.
It was built in 1964 off of Eero’s design. The Finnish American architect, best known for his Gateway Arch in St. Louis, passed away untimely at the age of 51 before he could see his last design constructed. The church’s predecessor, the First Christian Church, was designed in the contemporary style by Eero’s father Eliel Saarinen.
So what does all this mean? Why now have a stumbled across this subconscious setting?
What is the connection in a design that is symbolic – where form not only follows function, but represents it as well? That was created by the son of the original church’s architect – both men breaking with standards of the time- fording new streams in the larger landscape?
I don’t have answers, but I’ll ask for dreams.