February 22, 2016 by: Ben Heimsath

Until recently, early modernist church designs weren’t greatly appreciated. Sure, there were some standout structures that approached liturgical norms with bold new design aesthetics. I contributed my thoughts and images to the Locus Iste blog when I visited the St. John’s Abby, designed by Marcel Breuer and completed in 1961. However, only a few American congregations in the post-war era were interested in truly avant-garde designs. So architects experimented with colors and textures and proportions and applied them to still recognizable traditional forms.

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There’s no ready information on the origin of this mid-century design for Lakewood Christian Church in Waco. I looked for the dedication plaque and browsed the church history but couldn’t find any indication of it lineage. With just one look, I could tell someone was pushing the limits of design for the time. The front elevation is striking. The traditional nave form is recognizable, but the proportions have been shifted and exaggerated. A solid wall of brick rises above the roof pitch and becomes an anchor for the thin vertical cross. It is balanced on the opposite side with a block of turquois tile that wraps the corner at one edge and overlaps the brick on the other. Between the tile and the roof, the art glass windows form a mosaic pattern and are detailed with simple wood joinery.

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This elevation has been preserved and apparently given a new life as part of the children’s ministry and child development center. The church has a new sanctuary that by appearances is about a decade old. I did not get a chance to look inside the building to see whether any of the interior details were preserved. The outside elevation is distinctive enough to demonstrate the sophistication of this particular designer. If anyone knows the author, please let me know.

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Lakewood Christian Church, 6509 Bosque Blvd, Waco, TX 76710

Church Design & Construction/ Historic Preservation