Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Sometimes It Is Just Baffling

September 28th, 2010, Promulgated by Bernie

Sometimes you wonder what the people responsible for the construction of a new church are thinking -if they are thinking at all. I’m not referring to the architects. I’m referring to the church clients responsible for telling the architect what the building is to signify or express; its purpose; its sacramental nature in the Catholic tradition.

I ran across these photos of the Church of Santa Monica in Rivas, Spain on the Design Squared blog posted by two principals of Ashfield Hansen Design Inc. Is there anything -anything- about the church exterior, interior or decorative art that says Catholic or Christian?  Well, there is a cross (I can’t tell if it is a crucifix) in the chancel and, I think, a Paschal candle. But is there anything about the building and the style of art that says “Catholic.” It could just as easily be a sleek, contemporary auditorium in the headquarters of a large international corporation.

You often read in the architect’s statement that he tried to place the building “in the context” of the surrounding buildings or environment. Architects are big on that. Churches in suburban areas tend to look like the houses that surround them. Saint Catherine of Siena Church in Mendon blends in with the rural architectural style of the community. I remember when the new St. John the Evangelist Church in Greece, on Ridge Road, was built. The large cast-concrete cylinder in the center of the structure was to imitate the silos typical of Greece’s farming environment.1

Sure enough, the architectural firm that designed the Santa Monica Church

“designed the outside as sculpture, using materials that relate to the regional landscape.”

Blend-in folks. No one will notice you: just another barn, just another conference center, just another weird modernistic house or veterinary hospital.


1There was, if I recall, also a reference to wanting to look like a tent (Old Testament, Pilgrim Church, and “wandering”and “journeying” thing so popular in our diocese.)

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9 Responses to “Sometimes It Is Just Baffling”

  1. Ink says:

    The problem with architects these days (I think) is that they are so intent on everything blending together that they tend to forget the functions of these buildings. Churches are made to stand out. Houses, however, can and probably should blend into the neighbourhood. They should be “in harmony” with the lot upon which they are built, etc. This allows for maximum aesthetic beauty as well as, usually, functioning natural light. Churches, on the other hand… well, they’re sacred spaces. They need to be marked as such.

  2. The Egyptian says:

    looks like a fist giving the “finger” real church like, NOT

  3. Gretchen says:

    @Egyptian: I had that same exact thought!
    As for St. John’s in Greece, well I always wondered what they were going for. When I was a kid, I was afraid of it because it looked menacing to me. Moving back to Roc as an adult, I decided it looked like a missile silo or that they were trying to go for a concrete version of a bishop’s hat or maybe a wine cork. Not very appealing any way you look at it!

  4. Bernie says:

    Egyptian and Gretchen: I had not noticed that illusion. I think it’s the camera angle. The windows at the ends of all the shafts but that one are facing east, that one appears to be facing north. Perhaps that shaft is more vertical and acting as a kind of tower. The interior view shows a ceiling opening in the upper left corner; I think that is the interior end of that shaft.

    The more I look at the exterior photo of that thing the uglier it looks.

  5. Mike says:

    When I saw the top photo the first thing that crossed my mind was the old Bill Ding interlocking wooden toys that were somewhat popular back in the 1950s. The building reminded me of two of them lying on their sides.

  6. Dan says:

    We have not forgotten the damage Bishop Matthew Clark did to our Sacred Heart Cathedral, when he stripped out the interior during the so-called renovation.

    I would also like to remind you that New York State assembly candidate Harry Bronson was on the Rochester Planning Commission and voted to allow Bishop Clark to proceed with the project. He ignored the signed petitions of 7000 Catholics and neighbors of the Cathedral and the Rochester Preservation Commission’s vote to protect the gothic architecture of the building.

    Catholics should not vote for Harry Bronson. Send him a message by voting for his competitor.

    And last, but not least, we haven’t forgotten the name of Father Richard Vosko, the so-called priest from the Diocese of Albany, who was a paid ringleader to try and put a positive spin on the renovation.

    Thank God for a wonderful group of orthodox Catholics who fought long and hard to protect our Lord’s cathedral.

  7. Gretchen says:

    @Mike: HAHAHA! That link to the Bill Ding toys pulls up! (How fitting!)

  8. Bernie says:

    Mike: I remember those!but I don’t think I actually had a set of them.

  9. Ink says:

    Dan: From the impression I got from some Albany people, the Diocese of Albany is less heterodox than the Diocese of Rochester. Of course, I was talking to a Latin Mass guy, so I could just have been speaking to the DoA equivalent of, say, Gen. =P But they’re praying for us, too. From that impression, though, I wonder where they found that priest? Is he their little novelty, a token dissenter…?

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