I've always thought of myself as a modern, forward-thinking woman, except for when it comes to art and architecture, where I have always been something of a 19th-century girl. I used to think that Modernism was a little too sterile and stark for my taste, but over the past few years I have really grown to like it. I can't credit anything for this transformation beyond increased exposure, and the more I learned about mid-century design, the more my perception changed, and now I find it clean and calming--and beautiful. I'll never lose my affection for a fancy cornice, but I now feel similarly fond of simplicity.
I was, therefore, really looking forward to exploring Minneapolis on the tour I took Tuesday. On our way to downtown, we made a side trip to see a neighborhood church--though not a typical one by any stretch of the imagination. Nestled in the Longfellow neighborhood is Christ Church Lutheran, a Modernist masterpiece designed in 1949 by Eliel Saarinen with a 1962 addition by his son Eero. After we spent a few minutes exploring the exterior, built of Minnesota Kasota Stone, Pastor Kristine Carlson welcomed our group in the education wing created by the younger Saarinen and then led us into his father's final commission, the main church building.
One of the first things I noticed was the amazing acoustics of the room; when I wandered to the front of the church to take photos, I could clearly hear Pastor Carlson as she continued speaking to the group. The warm browns and golds of the stone walls and wooden pews glowed in the gentle light shining in through the vertical windows. Even on a morning as cloudy as the one when we were there, it cascades gently through the room, creating a calming, spiritual space. I think one of my fellow tour attendees most accurately summed up the sanctuary when he said that it "conveys the infinite."
More information about the history and design of Christ Church Lutheran can be found here: www.christchurchluth.org.
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Sarah Heffern is the social media strategist for the National Trust’s Public Affairs team. While she embraces all things online and pixel-centric, she’s also a hard-core building hugger, having fallen for preservation in a fifth grade “Built Environment” class.