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Christ Church Lutheran
3244 34th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55406

Eliel Saarinen 1949

What is immediately striking about this commission is how humble it is—what a true service the architect performed for the community. The church brochure summarizes the history of the project:

After abandoning plans for a Gothic type of structure, the building committee of Christ Church turned to the simpler designs popular in Scandinavia. The Finnish born architect Eliel Saarinen, himself the son of a Lutheran pastor, accepted the challenge to build an "honest" church. With such projects as the Berkshire Music Center, Helsinki Railroad station, and the town layout of Reval, Estonia to his credit, the design of a relatively small church became almost a hobby with him and turned out to be his last completed work before his death six months later

Eliel Saarinen: Finish American Architect and Educato, by Albert Christ-Janer (Chicago: The Univ. of Chicago P., revised ed. 1979) gives a sense of the breadth of Saarinen’s design talent. There are delicate watercolors and sketches, precisely drafted city plans, and designs for schools, churches, theaters, office towers, furniture, and silverware. Saarinen was also technically astute, using acoustic design to further the spiritual quality of the space:, by Albert Christ-Janer (Chicago: The Univ. of Chicago P., revised ed. 1979) gives a sense of the breadth of Saarinen’s design talent. There are delicate watercolors and sketches, precisely drafted city plans, and designs for schools, churches, theaters, office towers, furniture, and silverware. Saarinen was also technically astute, using acoustic design to further the spiritual quality of the space:

Because of Saarinen’s concern for sound control, starting with the basic shape of the building and extending to minor details, the acoustics of Christ Church are probably the finest of any religious building in the United States. The tone and clarity of the music within it is incomparable. Although not small—it seats 600—every syllable spoken by the minister is as clearly audible in the last row as it is in the front of the church. In effect, the congregation is "within" the service, at its acoustical center, rather than being merely at a crossover point in a path of reverberating sound.

Because sound waves reverberate back and forth between parallel surfaces, there are no parallel surfaces in the church. Saarinen also addressed acoustics materially, by placing a sound-absorbent surface across from any sound-reflective surface.

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Christy Rogers 1998 (updated 2008)

 


How to visit

Docent-led in-depth tours of the church and education wing are available by making arrangements through the church office. Cost is $10 per person, with all proceeds going to the non-sectarian, non-profit Friends of Christ Church Lutheran to support preservation of the building. For more information please visit www.christchurchluth.org or call +1 612 721 6611.


 

 

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