Mike and I spent the end of last week on a self-guided architecture tour of mid-20th century modern buildings in Los Angeles County. While we were in Norwalk (visiting the city’s incredible modernist government complex) we were surprised to stumble across a little spiral church.
Spiral-shaped buildings are rare, and we were immediately reminded of the Temple in Independence.
As a proportion to its base, the spire of the little church is much smaller, relatively, than the Temple’s spire.
Many of its forms appear to have been inspired by Le Corbusier’s iconic chapel of Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp.
The interior was very simple, but the furnishings — including plants and video projection screens — were not really in keeping with the building’s original design.
The stained glass windows (also lifted from Ronchamp) had a nice effect.
The church member who let us inside didn’t know much about the building’s history, although he believed it had won a design award from the city. (We speculate that it was built c. 1965; the date on the plaque refers to some renovations to the grounds made by the current congregation.) Like many of the churches we saw in the area, the original congregation had long since moved on or died out and the building was now owned by a Korean congregation, in this case Adventists.
It was a fun little find that I thought I’d share.
I find this quite interesting. What does architecture say about doctrine? Human beings seem to be facinated with symbols. When words are insufficent to express one’s feelings, emotions or thoughts, we ofter turn to symbols. Architeture is one avenue for expressing the symbolism that is meaningful to us. What does the spiral symbolize for us? As with words, symbols can also mean different things to different people. Does the sprial represent our reaching up to God? Does it represent God’s spirit descending down to surround and confort us? Does it represent both? Does it represent God’s eternal love and grace? Does it represent something else that is meaningful to those who created it that we have not thought of? To me it represents God’s continuing desire to reveal Himself as the loving God of mercy and grace that He is.
The steeple reminds me of the symbol you see on the signs for the United Methodist Church. Googling this tells me that this is the United Methodist Cross and Flame Symbol.
“Following some two dozen conceptualizations, a traditional symbol – the cross – was linked with a single but dual flame. The insignia thereby relates our church to God by way of the second and third persons of the Trinity: the Christ (cross) and the Holy Spirit (flame). ”
The stained glass windows from the inside are certainly colorful. Prismatic, perhaps.
Rigel: I think you’re right! It really does look like the United Methodist Church logo. I think it’s pretty successful as a little Methodist church design-wise. I think it shows you can make a little church very symbolically meaningful and attractive presumably even without spending a lot of money.
TerryFlowers: I think spiral is absolutely inspired — a fantastic choice for the Community of Christ to adopt and embrace. As you point out, it’s a natural symbol that is found everywhere from shells to whirlpools to galaxies, and as such it can naturally evoke a sense of awesomeness of the divine. I think it also symbolizes a continuing path, the community’s journey of exploration and understanding with the divine. It’s a perfect universal design form for a religion, and unlike stars, moons, and crosses, no one else seems to have their hooks in it yet.
its funny i live in norwalk ca. and everytime my girlfriend and i drive past this building we make some comment about it looking like the independence temple.