Postwar Places of Worship
City staff and the council-appointed Historic Preservation Commission conducted a study of historic Scottsdale places of worship (churches, synagogues and temples) to provide an understanding of the background story relating to the development of postwar religious buildings in Scottsdale. This research and a field survey of 28 properties with construction dates from 1945-1973 was completed in 2010 and provided a context for nominating individual properties to be listed on the Scottsdale Historic Register. The 1933 Our Lady of Perpetual Help Mission Church on Brown Avenue in Oldtown was not included in the 2010 study since it was placed on the local register in 2001 as an Early Town Building.
Until the dawn of World War I, churches and other places of worship in Europe and North America typically followed older traditional styles of architecture. The Modern Movement that started in Europe rocked the traditional architecture of churches and other types of buildings following the Arts and Crafts Movement and the Art Nouveau period. The Modern movement tenets of rejecting the past and ornamentation led to a major decline in the use of revival styles of architecture for places of worship by the end of World War II. After the Modern Movement gained a strong hold in 1945, later American churches reflect this international trend towards Modern architecture, including using new materials in innovative ways for religious buildings. Scottsdale churches built during the 1950s continued to employ rather traditional sanctuary designs. While architects generally rejected ornament as contrary to the rules of modern architecture, architects for churches and other sacred buildings still included the symbols of the specific religious traditions in their designs.
The American way of life transformed dramatically following World War II. The horrors of World War II and the fears of the Cold War fostered strong religious sentiment in the United States during the immediate postwar era. Americans turned to religion in record numbers. In addition the region west of the Rockies experienced unprecedented growth following the war with a rush of Americans taking part in a great Westward migration. Religious sects raced to build new structures to accommodate the faithful when faced with a swelling population moving to previously undeveloped areas. The wartime boom, followed by the post-war population shift that brought vast numbers of Americans to the Sunbelt, would forever alter Arizona. Attitudes of religious groups in the West were also changing to more modern, egalitarian, socially involved doctrines in the 20th century. Views on the role of the laity, congregation or community of worshipers in the planning for religious buildings changed as some religious organizations became less hierarchical.
Many houses of worship in Arizona stand as architectural landmarks representing the Modern architecture movement and the innovative use of concrete and other materials. After the seventies buildings constructed with concrete exteriors were less common. One factor that may have turned the public and clients against concrete buildings was the Modern architectural style called ‘Brutalism’. This style is characterized by using raw concrete with an unfinished exterior surface in structures lacking any decorative elements. An architect that decided to reject a strict interpretation of modern architecture and the use of materials was Edward Durell Stone. His projects shifted in style from severe modernism and the International style to an ornamental formalism including using decorative screen block walls called ‘brise soleil’.
The increased use of thin shelled concrete construction was another trend in architecture and engineering during the study period. Thin shell concrete roof system designs in America are now credited with two major innovations in concrete construction; the wide-spanning, short barrel shell and the ribless shell. The leading European firms and practitioners of innovative concrete structures during the Modern architectural era were centered in Italy, Spain and Germany beginning as early as the 1920s. Anton Tedesko, a design engineer from a German firm helped bring thin shelled concrete structural design to America in 1932. Perhaps the most influential church built of concrete in Europe with a Modern architectural style is the 1955 Notre Dame Du Haut Chapel in Ronchamp, France by Le Corbusier. The expressive sculptural forms for the walls, towers and roof of this chapel created a worship space like no other. Historic preservationists and structural engineers are now taking an interest in preserving some of the most noteworthy thin shell concrete structures from this era after some buildings have been demolished, including the Los Arcos Methodist Church in 2012 in Scottsdale. The mid-century architectural and engineering influences of the Modern Movement, thin shell concrete construction and innovative uses of materials are reflected in the design and construction of the sanctuaries and other buildings on religious campuses in Scottsdale.
The complete historic context report can be found at Postwar Places of Worship (pdf/230kb)
Descriptions/Photos of Places of Worship:
Holy Cross Lutheran Church (pdf/68kb)
Location: 3110 N. Hayden Road
Date of Construction: 1961; 1964 education buildings addition
Architect: William D. Knight, Jr.
Date Placed on Register: June 18, 2013, Ordinance No. 4091
Description: The sanctuary has a thin shell concrete roof with sections curving from the straight ridgeline down to freestanding concrete columns on the north. Seven exterior columns containing downspouts support the seven main roof sections on the north side of the sanctuary with part of the roof being cantilevered past the columns. There is a walkway between these seven concrete columns and the wall of glass on the north side of the sanctuary. Two narrow vertical bands of curving concrete support a graceful freestanding cross tower. The two ribbons of concrete are gently curved with the one supporting a cross taller than the other. The two 1964 Sunday school wings are at a right-angle to the sanctuary and a covered walkway separates the school from the church. The two parallel school buildings have low-pitched folded plate roofs of concrete and there is an open play area and courtyard between buildings.
The Holy Cross Lutheran Church campus has maintained its integrity and it possesses high artistic values. The sanctuary demonstrates the design talents of William D. Knight, Jr., architect. The roofs of the structures and the cross tower illustrate the innovative uses for concrete construction methods during this period by engineers and architects to achieve dramatic building forms for religious purposes. The thin shell concrete construction techniques utilized in the building designs also make the church campus an excellent example of mid-century Modern architectural and engineering style of the early sixties.
First Church of Christ, Scientist (pdf/72kb)
Location: 6427 E. Indian School Road
Date of Construction: 1962; 1971 addition
Architect: T. S. Montgomery
Date Placed on Register: June 18, 2013, Ordinance No. 4089
Description: The architect has selected and used materials in innovative ways to achieve a modern look within a Southwestern context. Precast rectangular concrete units are used to form screen walls with two different size units; the larger blocks (16” x 24”) are used on the sanctuary wall facing Indian School Road and smaller blocks (12” x 18”) are used on the west side of the building. The roof of the worship space is low-pitched and is formed of precast concrete panels that have curved recesses on the interior. The walls are of burnt adobe brick alternating with glass curtain walls with the grill of stacked concrete blocks. A copper fascia with raised seams runs along the top of the walls and an ornamental copper sculptural spire rises in the middle of the western brick wall.
This church is considered the work of a master by a respected architect. T. S. Montgomery was a talented local architect responsible for several noteworthy church projects in the sixties. The architect’s use of concrete and local materials gives this place of worship a warm feeling and a human scale - quite different in character from the harsh use of concrete by architects of the Brutalist style at the time. T. S. Montgomery’s creative use of precast concrete block screen walls, precast concrete roof panels, burnt adobe bricks, wooden doors and copper fascia makes this church an excellent example of sixties Southwest Modern architectural style. It possesses high artistic values that have been recognized by other architects and organizations.
Glass and Garden Community Church (The Garden) (pdf/73kb)
Location: 8620 E. McDonald Drive
Date of Construction: 1966
Architect: E. Logan Campbell
Engineer: John K. Parsons
Date Placed on Register: June 18, 2013, Ordinance No. 4090
Description: The 1966 Glass and Garden Church sanctuary building is now called The Garden Church and continues to be used for church services. The church was designed as a walk-in, drive-in church with speakers on posts in the parking lot and it was designed by E. Logan Campbell, architect with a round cylindrical form and a concrete domed roof. The concrete spherical roof in a shallow dome is a thin shell roof poured in one day. The large-span 136’ diameter dome is 6” thick with steel reinforcing bars every 12”. The structural engineer for this building, John K. Parsons was responsible for other thin shell concrete church buildings. A tower at the top of the dome roof is an open lattice sculpture of metal topped by a cross. The large circular main sanctuary building has over 10,000 square feet of space and can seat over 1000 people. The walls have attached concrete columns with integral green stone aggregate and with an inverted elliptical shape formed by each pair of columns that sweep upwards from the base. The top of the walls at the edge of the dome roof have a band of decorative concrete trim with a precast sculptural form.
The Glass and Garden Community Church (The Garden Church) design demonstrates the collaboration between the pastor, laity and the architect in designing an appropriately symbolic religious form and building to reflect the beliefs of the congregation. The walk-in, drive-in church concept was a unique and rather novel idea for worship in the sixties in Arizona. The church has maintained the integrity of its design and construction by E. Logan Campbell, architect and John K. Parsons, engineer. The design of the circular sanctuary with a shallow dome roof shows a creative and innovative use of reinforced concrete to enclose and span a large worship space by a master of thin shell concrete construction. Other details of the exterior like the inverted elliptical columns, the decorative concrete trim around the top of the cylinder and the arched covered entrance contribute to the overall design as well as having artistic merit.