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Church of the Messiah

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1966, William D. Warner, project designer, William Kite. Danielson Pk. (corner of Foster Center Rd.) (Route 94)

This board-and-batten church echoes the dramatic shaping of vernacular shed and gable elements which was conspicuously associated with the Sea Ranch development north of San Francisco, designed by Moore, Lyndon, Turnbull, Whitaker (1968) and widely popular in the late 1960s. By comparison with Irving Haynes's more vernacular shaping of Lime Rock Baptist Church ( LI30), this is abstract. The opposed tilts of the shed roofs of its separated towers for light and the fall of the shed roof away from them also suggest reverberations from Le Corbusier's then very popular chapel of Notre-Dame-du-Haut, Ronchamp (1950–1954). The long shed roof molds an interior defined by its exposed structure and enclosed in the natural finishes of its flush wood siding. The lighting of this space is its outstanding feature. A row of square clerestory windows under the eaves along the high side of the shed space culminates in a diffuse shower of reflected light to the right of the altar area from a concealed opening in the towered light box, with direct light from an off-center arched window behind the altar itself as its climactic focus. A responding row of slightly smaller square windows close to the floor lights the low side. The result is a shadowy, but also luminous, space which is particularly receptive to changes in outdoor light. Multidirectional sheathing of the various walls further animates the space: for the high side, vertical boarding; for the low side and ceiling, horizontal; for the altar, boarding in opposed diagonals with their center line at the focal arched window.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.

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