Sunday, February 3, 2013

Churches and Beauty: Two Books

I attended a reading and book signing for Jay M. Price at Eighth Day Books last week. He is:

A native of Santa Fe, New Mexico, Jay M. Price directs the Public History Program at Wichita State University. His publications include Gateways to the Southwest: The Story of Arizona State Parks, Wichita, 1860-1930, Wichita's Legacy of Flight, and El Dorado!: Legacy of an Oil Boom. He and his students recently completed a history of the Cherokee Outlet Land Rush of 1893. He recently worked with a local public television station to turn his history of the El Dorado oil boom into a documentary. His other writings include works on local history, the history of tourism, regional identity, and American sacred architecture. A member of the Kansas Humanities Council speakers bureau and board of trustees, he has delivered the talks, "Reading Roadside Kansas," and "Sacred Landscapes of Kansas." Currently, his main project is "Temples for a Modern God," a study of mid-twentieth century sacred architecture.

A few people bought his book, which is rather expensive, being published by Oxford University Press--but he has also authored books about Kansas for Arcadia Publishing like this one about Wichita.

Temples for a Modern God: Religious Architecture in Postwar America (published by OUP) by Jay M. Price (Wichita State University)

  Temples for a Modern God is one of the first major studies of American religious architecture in the postwar period, and it reveals the diverse and complicated set of issues that emerged just as one of the nation's biggest building booms unfolded. Jay Price tells the story of how a movement consisting of denominational architectural bureaus, freelance consultants, architects, professional and religious organizations, religious building journals, professional conferences, artistic studios, and specialized businesses came to have a profound influence on the nature of sacred space. Debates over architectural style coincided with equally significant changes in worship practice. Meanwhile, suburbanization and the baby boom required a new type of worship facility, one that had to attract members and serve a social role as much as honor the Divine. Price uses religious architecture to explore how Mainline Protestantism, Catholicism, Judaism, and other traditions moved beyond their ethnic, regional, and cultural enclaves to create a built environment that was simultaneously intertwined with technology and social change, yet rooted in a fluid and shifting sense of tradition. Price argues that these structures, as often mocked as loved, were physical embodiments of a significant, if underappreciated, era in American religious history.  

~The first major treatment of religious architecture in postwar America
~Deals with mid-level and vernacular construction projects as well as the more famous post-war churches
~Compares mainline Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish construction as well as the contributions of Eastern Orthodoxy, Latter-day Saints, Evangelicals, Muslims, Buddhists, and other traditions

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: The Search for a Better Church Building
Chapter 2: The Postwar House of Worship
Chapter 3: Postwar Religious Building: A Negotiated
Chapter 4: Making a Modern Church Still Look Like a Church
Chapter 5: "Let's Stop Building Cathedrals"
Conclusion: An Unappreciated Legacy

Professor Price is an excellent presenter, with a slide show of pictures from many churches, some even in Wichita. His discussion of Catholic church architecture, particularly as it reflected changes in the liturgy after the Second Vatican Council, was enlightening and well presented. The suburban setting of churches and houses of worships for all the different religious communities effected several changes--because the churches needed parking lots! He also showed how consultants and marketing affected the building of new churches. In addition to the slide show he had some books and magazines from the '50s and '60s, including a magazine all about maintaining the physical plant of the church and school, with advertisements for everything from restroom stalls to floor cleaning/buffing machines--not to mention religious statues and candles!

Earlier that week I heard Duncan G. Stroik on the Son Rise Morning Show, speaking about the revival of beauty in churches being built today. His book is The Church Building as a Sacred Place: Beauty, Transcendence, and the Eternal:

How can we recover a sense of the sacred in liturgy and architecture? Why was it lost in the twentieth century? What signs of hope exist for the future? In his new book, The Church Building as a Sacred Place: Beauty, Transcendence, and the Eternal, Duncan G. Stroik, Professor of Architecture at the University of Notre Dame, answers these questions with wisdom gained from two decades of teaching, writing, and practicing architecture in service to the Church.

Writing to architects, artists, pastors, and all who see the urgent need for renewal, Stroik begins this compilation of essays by reemphasizing the nature and purpose of the church building. He then considers how the Classical Tradition can inform contemporary churches, analyzes the impact Modernist philosophy has had on architecture, and concludes by looking forward to renaissance and renewal. Along the way he gives principles of design, myths of contemporary sacred architecture, advice for priests, and explanations of the theology of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. Photographs and drawings of exemplary historic and contemporary churches fill the pages of this instructive and inspiring work.

Two interesting books on modern church architecture and its role in our worship. Bon dimanche!

No comments:

Post a Comment