Brutalism & Indestructibility

Not unrelated to Shannon’s post: Few corporations would make a church congregation impoverish itself to honor the school of “Brutalism.” Charles Paul Freund at the American Spectator describes the arguments between the Third Church of Christ, Scientist (who can’t afford the upkeep of a remarkably uninviting piece of architecture) and the preservationists.

Freund quotes the critic Marc Fisher, who called the building “antagonistic to human spirituality” and an “example of a failed and arrogant architectural experiment.” Freund sums up the conflict:

WHETHER AN APPEAL to expertise in Brutalism trumps philistinism, along with property rights, spirituality, and the church’s own sense of its religious mission (and thus the First Amendment) remains open both to debate and to legal action

The congregation itself has shrunk to 50 – a small number to provide for the upkeep of an incredibly expensive structure – one little likely to increase their flock if for no other reason than that the door is hidden. Surely, however it is also a small number to support litigation.

Defenders of the building have dismissed Fisher and others like him as design philistines, and regard the whole issue of the building’s aggressive ugliness as an irrelevant matter of taste. “Preservation isn’t always about whether we like and not like buildings,” one of the board members observed before she voted to make the church a landmark. “You can learn enough to have an appreciation for it.”

(The net lets this piece remain short while encouraging more reading through links.)

Such styles take a while to reach the hinterlands. Some of the philistines on our street have been put off by a house with similar lines and similar construction, finished slowly and not without some neighbors’ letters to the editor. We didn’t complain, but I’ll admit, concrete walls are not inviting, no matter how great the insulation. Still looking distinctly institutional, it stands on a corner lot. Now, it is rented to students with a rather large quantity of pickups. I suspect they will test its indestructibility.

And as for the mixture of concrete and religion, Sawyer Brown has a lyric that touches on its solidity, 800 Pound Jesus.

Out by my driveway he
Looks down the street
With his long hair and sandals made
Of rebar and concrete
I painted him white with a long purple robe
He’s a rock of ages on our gravel road

2 thoughts on “Brutalism & Indestructibility”

  1. Jeese, I’m ugly, brutal. “antagonistic to human spirituality” and an “example of a failed and arrogant architectural experiment.”

    Hope they don’t come after me next.

  2. The congregation should disband and leave it to the hop heads who0 run DC to deal with it. Maybe they can take out a sub-prime mortgage before they disband and have a going away party.

Comments are closed.