Tag Archives: Eero Saarinen

7 Towering Designs By César Pelli, Who Died Friday At 92

July 22, 2019

Dees Stribling, Bisnow National Want to get a jump-start on upcoming deals? Meet the major players at one of our upcoming national events! Renowned architect César Pelli died Friday at 92. Pelli grew up in Argentina and came to the United States in the 1950s for graduate studies, working for a decade for architect Eero Saarinen in Michigan and then for firms on the West Coast. In 1977, he founded his own firm, currently known as Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, and also became dean of the Yale School of Architecture, a post he held until 1984.

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Escaping Reality Through the TWA Hotel

It’s now a fantasy-steeped hotel honoring the airport design of a bygone era, but the TWA Flight Center at New York’s JFK Airport was never quite real.

It’s hard to imagine, but Idlewild—now John F. Kennedy—Airport in New York was briefly, in the mid-20th century, a rather pleasant place to visit. Not unlike the corporations that set up pavilions at World’s Fairs on the other side of Queens, private airlines were encouraged to design their own terminals here around a central public space, each airline declaring its brand through modern architecture. A 1955 plan for the budding airport led to the creation, initially, of seven terminal buildings surrounding a vast plaza with chapels, a see-through heating and cooling center, a reflective pool, and a fountain.

But passenger numbers soon exploded, thanks to the emergence of the wide-body jet. JFK’s annual passenger totals went from 3.5 million in 1956 to 11.5 million in 1962. By the end of the 1960s, it was the second-busiest airport in the country. Expansions, renovations, and alterations struggled to handle dramatic shifts in the industry (in particular, airline deregulation starting in the late ‘70s and tightened security after 9/11). Most of its facilities survived the century, but rarely with grace.

JFK carried 61.9 million passengers last year, and almost nothing remains of its midcentury origins. But the TWA Flight Center, the architectural star of 20th-century air travel, has survived and may finally thrive.

Between TWA’s commission for a terminal at Idlewild (now JFK) in 1956 and its opening in 1962, the airport’s traffic exploded. TWA’s expansions and alterations in ensuing decades could never quite keep up with new passenger demands. (AP)

The new TWA Hotel opened late last month in the former terminal, its branding relying heavily on the glory years of the defunct airline, and by extension, its architecture. A faithful restoration of the building to its original 1962 appearance is anchored by two new, curved hotel towers behind it and a new conference center underneath. Its amenities and intensely curated visitor experience should give it a prosperous second life as an indulgence and curiosity for non-flying locals, and for travelers, as a less cattle-like option for killing time between flights. This new chapter for the building may now seem inevitable, but it was far from certain two decades ago.

Designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen, who also designed St. Louis’s Gateway Arch and Washington’s Dulles Airport, the Flight Center’s concrete curves and swanky lounges still symbolize the glamour of flying in the 1960s, despite their almost immediate obsolescence. Other airlines at Idlewild had handsome, practical buildings, but TWA had an experience to sell.

It’s no coincidence that the most branding-savvy airline of the 1950s found its man in Saarinen. As explained in Kornel Ringli’s history, Designing TWA, the company wanted a building it could present as a consumer product in a competitive postwar market. The man who had already designed distinctive buildings for General Motors and IBM would make something that TWA could flaunt.

“Instead of minimizing costs through constructional or material efficiency,” writes Ringli, “… another kind of economy has taken place, which aims to garner an increasingly scarce resource for the benefit of TWA: the public’s attention.” Saarinen’s design was immediately compared to a bird in flight by many observers. Critic Douglas Haskell of Architectural Forum compared the design in 1958 to the recently completed Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland, with both demonstrating a “popular need … for more drama: a ‘good show,’ symbolism, even fairy tales.”

A diagram by Eero Saarinen & Associates of the Flight Center and the Flight Wings (gate areas) connected by two Flight Tubes (passageways). The tubes now connect to a JetBlue terminal and the new TWA Hotel. (Eero Saarinen/Library of Congress)

The terminal provided a workout, by the standard of today’s airports. There were an inconvenient amount of stairs between check-in, the lounges, and the “Flight Tubes,” which led to the gates. And once you were in those tubes, perhaps making a connection from another terminal in pre-AirTrain JFK, there were no moving walkways (planned but never installed).

TWA expected 7 million passengers to travel through its Idlewild terminal in its first five years, but ended up with 11 million. Even its signature Sunken Lounge was sacrificed in the airline’s later years for a generic customer-service area as it struggled to adjust. The terminal closed to passengers in 2001.

While the Flight Center had been landmarked by New York City in 1994—much to the chagrin of its struggling tenant—other terminals from the same era were demolished and replaced in the years that followed. The International Arrivals Building by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill was demolished in 2000; National Airlines’s Sundrome, by I. M. Pei, was torn down in 2011; PanAm’s WorldPort was gone by 2014.

The renovated Flight Center today. When the Port Authority issued its RFP, a submission from the Trump Group proposed swapping the “WA” of the building’s “TWA” signs with “RUMP.” (Mark Byrnes)

A new terminal for JetBlue, designed around TWA’s footprint, opened in 2008 and connected to Saarinen’s tubes. The airport’s only hotel, a nondescript Ramada Plaza, closed the following year. After a request for proposals in 2007 failed to attract investors, the Port Authority undertook a $20 million landmark restoration before putting the Flight Center up for another RFP in 2012.

The original winner, hotelier Andre Balazs, did not proceed, so in 2014, the Port Authority selected MCR/Morse Development and brought in the firm Beyer Blinder Belle as the architect. (A rejected submission by the Trump Group proposed swapping the “WA” of the building’s “TWA” signs with “RUMP.”)

Multiple design firms took on elements of the renovation and expansion. The hotel, designed by Lubrano Ciavarra Architects, stages the Flight Center as the main attraction through black-tinted glass curtain walls that are just tall enough to block the view of the JetBlue terminal behind it. The hotel interiors, done by Stonehill Taylor, use hardwoods and brass details that reflect the vision of industrial-design icon Raymond Loewy, who shaped TWA’s corporate identity in the 1960s. The conference center, designed by INC, takes the same approach and includes historical TWA exhibits throughout the common spaces, which lead up to gigantic, hangar-like sliding doors. Outside, a midcentury-inspired landscape design is being installed by landscape architects Mathews Nielsen.

Nostalgia and fantasy permeate the restored Flight Center. (Mark Byrnes)

But the Flight Center is still the main attraction, and it functions more naturally as a hotel lobby than it ever did as an airport terminal. Hit songs from the ‘60s play gently through the speakers as employees—dressed in era-appropriate uniforms—accommodate guests and patrons. Filling the interior, an old newsstand now displays early ‘60s publications; a boutique sells stylish TWA swag for an audience that’ll also appreciate the Shinola, Warby Parker, and Phaidon commercial spaces nearby. Walls display David Klein’s colorful and expressive TWA travel posters.

What was the international check-in counter now registers hotel guests, while the old domestic check-in serves as a food hall. The original Sunken Lounge looks out onto a TWA-branded Lockheed Constellation plane, restored as a cocktail bar styled on the airline’s old lounges, where you’ll keep hearing those ‘60s hits.

Saarinen, who died one year before the building first opened, designed a fantasy of air travel that only grew further from reality over time. In 1990, Paul Goldberger wrote in the New York Times of Saarinen’s JFK contribution: “The kindest thing that could be done to this building, given how unfunctional it is today, would be to strip off all the additions and restore it as a museum of airport architecture.” That has basically come to pass. Nostalgia is the unapologetic theme at the TWA Hotel, and while it may be an insistent branding experience at times, it is also sure to provide delight to anyone passing through for an hour or a weekend.

Today, flights are cheaper, planes are safer, and most airports have crowd-pleasing places to eat and shop, yet we are more miserable than ever along almost every step of the trip. The Flight Center’s new role at the bigger, better, but uninspiring JFK isn’t just for business and consumption—it’s to provide an escape from the rest of the airport into something that was never quite real.

About the Author

Mark Byrnes
Mark Byrnes

Mark Byrnes is a senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.

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Rooftop Bars: Lounge Poolside at the Just-Opened TWA Hotel’s Observation Deck

The rooftop pool, bar, and observation deck at the TWA hotel at John F. Kennedy airport. Photography courtesy of TWA hotel.


Eero Saarinen’s Terminal 5 at John F. Kennedy  International Airport reopened today, this time as the lobby of the TWA Hotel. Beyer Blinder Belle was tasked with preservation and kept the restored terminal true to its retro-futuristic roots. Stonehill Taylor created luxurious midcentury-modern guest rooms in the two newly-constructed wings that flank the terminal. But Lubrano Ciavarra, the design consultant and the design architect on record, was tasked with one of the best amenities timed to the hotel’s springtime opening: the rooftop pool, bar, and observation deck.

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Read more: Eero Saarinen’s TWA Flight Center at JFK Prepares for a New Beginning 

The observation deck sits atop one of the newly-constructed guest room wings. It boasts 10,000 square-feet of space and features an infinity pool along with a bar operated by Gerber Group. The 63-foot by 20-foot infinity-edge pool overlooks one of JFK’s largest runways, providing an endlessly-fascinating backdrop to the rooftop experience. The deck will be open year-round, with the pool’s ability to reach temperatures of 100 degrees serving as a pleasant complement to brisk New York City winters.

Exterior of TWA Hotel, John F. Kennedy International Airport. Photography courtesy of MCR Development.


The pool is an amenity open to guests of the hotel, but anyone is free to make a reservation at the observation deck bar. Gerber Group, which operates icons of New York city nightlife and hospitality such as The Campbell at Grand Central Terminal, has opened with a summer-ready menu. Guests can try the Mile High Spritz (vodka, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, fresh lime juice and prosecco) or the Watermelon Collins (Aviation gin, watermelon and lemon juices, agave and club soda, and more options from the menu. The observation deck also operates a full rooftop kitchen.

Wherever your final destination is, there’s surely no more stylish way to unwind at JFK.

Read more: Rooftop Bars: Yabu Pushelberg and Ian Schrager Bring Style to Times Square with The Terrace

Read more: Rooftop Bars: Take in the Glamour of Old Manhattan at Ophelia Lounge

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Parrish Art Museum Explores Architecture’s Relationship With Photography

TWA Terminal at Idlewild (now JFK) Airport, Eero Saarinen, New York, NY, a 1962 chromogenic print by Ezra Stoller. Photography courtesy of Yossi Milo Gallery, New York, and the Estate of Ezra Stoller/Esto.

Garry Winogrand, the renowned photographer of American life, once observed: “Photography is not about the thing photographed. It is about how that thing looks photographed.” Winogrand was expressing a view that could be ascribed to many architectural photographers, who are, at least in some cases, less interested in recording how buildings look than in producing images of how they could, or should, look. In so doing, they sometimes join forces with architects, who wish to disseminate idealized images of their work, and with publications that waver between wanting to present reality and wanting to offer visual delight.

Hiroshi Sugimoto’s 2001 gelatin silver print Rockefeller Center. Photography courtesy of Hiroshi Sugimoto, Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York.

The gap between documentation and manipulation is a central theme of “Image Building: How Photography Transforms Architecture,” an exhibition at the Parrish Art Museum—itself, the occupant of a much-photographed Herzog & de Meuron structure—in Southampton, New York, through June 17. It includes images that make no claims at realism—some by current art world darlings such as Thomas Ruff, who has said that other photographers “believe to have captured reality and I believe to have created a picture.” Therese Lichtenstein, the show’s curator, notes in her catalog essay that Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron once commissioned Ruff to photograph their buildings to see, she says, “what they would look like as art.”

Iwan Baan’s 2011 chromogenic print, Torre David #1. Photography courtesy of Iwan Baan and Moskowitz Bayse, L.A.

Prominent among the photographs that make no attempt at “accurate” representation are works by Hiroshi Sugimoto, who renders famous buildings in blurry black and white. In a 2001 image, for example, he strives to see how far he can distort 30 Rockefeller Plaza without sacrificing its recognizability, a process he describes as “erosion-testing architecture for durability.”

Thomas Ruff’s w.h.s. 10, a 2001 chromogenic print. Photography courtesy of Thomas Ruff, the Collection of George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg, and David Zwirner Gallery, New York/London/Hong Kong.

For Sugimoto’s images to work, the subject buildings must already be iconic—a status they acquired largely through the efforts of his camera-wielding predecessors. The narrow-shouldered 30 Rock, for instance, was made instantly recognizable in the 1930’s by Samuel H. Gottscho. But even Gottscho, it turned out, was a manipulator who shot 30 Rock first with enough light to get the skyscraper’s outlines sharp, and again by night, to capture the glow from its windows, then combined the results in the darkroom.

The 1956 gelatin silver print Chuey House (Los Angeles, Calif.) by Julius Shulman. Photography courtesy of the Julius Shulman Photography Archive, the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, 2004.R.10, and the J. Paul Getty Trust.

“Documentary” photographers who didn’t resort to such extreme efforts still took pains to shoot modernist buildings in ways that made them look glamorous. As Interior Design Hall of Fame member Julius Shulman once stated: “Every architect I’ve ever worked for has become world-famous, because of the publicity they get.” Shulman himself is famous for shooting the Case Study Houses, the mid-century Southern California experiments in residential design, sponsored, tellingly, by a magazine.

New York City views, RCA Building floodlighted, 1933, a gelatin silver print of Rockefeller Center by Samuel H. Gottscho. Photography courtesy of the Gottscho-Schleisner Collection, the Estate of Samuel H. Gottscho, and the Museum of the City of New York/Gift of Samuel H. Gottscho/Gottscho-Schleisner,

Shulman’s postwar contemporary Balthazar Korab photographed tightly cropped sections of buildings, creating abstractions from the architecture of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and other masters. Today, Korab’s closest counterpart may be Hélène Binet, whose work zeroes in on forms and textures, sometimes making it a challenge to determine what exactly is being depicted. (Luisa Lambri and Judith Turner, neither of whom is in the Parrish show, explore similar effects.)

Baan’s Torre David #2 chromogenic print. Photography courtesy of Iwan Baan and Moskowitz Bayse, L.A.

One divergent strain in American architectural photography has been the dystopian vision. A case in point: Lewis Baltz’s 1970’s images of the tract houses in the West, which make the buildings seem, in Lichtenstein’s words, “outmoded even before their completion.” While photographs like these populate art journals, they are less likely to turn up on the pages of architecture or design magazines, where they may be seen as downers.

Tract House #6, a 1971 gelatin silver print by Lewis Baltz. Photography courtesy of George Eastman Museum, Rochester, NY, the Estate of Lewis Baltz and Gallery Luisotti, Santa Monica.

Architectural photographers must decide whether to include people in their images. Contemporary German conceptualist Candida Höfer believes photographing buildings with no one in them reveals a lot about human nature, just as an absent guest is often the subject of conversation at a party. The young Dutch photographer Iwan Baan tends to include people in his shots, but not always the people the architect or the client would have chosen. He gained prominence last decade documenting the construction of the CCTV headquarters in Beijing by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture with his images that placed migrant workers and their makeshift living quarters in the foreground.

Thomas Struth’s chromogenic print Pergamon Museum I, Berlin, 2001. Photography courtesy of Thomas Struth Studio, and the Dallas Museum of Art, Contemporary Art Fund: Gift of Arlene and John Dayton, Mr. and Mrs. Vernon E. Faulconer, Mr. and Mrs. Bryant M. Hanley, Jr., Marguerite and Robert K. Hoffman, Cindy and Howard Rachofsky, Deedie and Rusty Rose, Gayle and Paul Stoffel, and Three Anonymous Donors, 2002.46.

For a century, photographers of architecture and interiors have been a mainstay of print media, including general interest publications. Gottscho’s work appeared regularly in Town & Country as well as the more specialized House & Garden, while Ezra Stoller published in Look, Harper’s Bazaar, and Playboy, along with the expected architecture journals. Design magazines play a hybrid role, not only entertaining but also educating readers, and thus tend to stay on the “representational” end of the spectrum (with “misrepresentation,” for art or profit, at the other end).

TWA Flight Center in JFK International Airport (Queens, New York), Balthazar Korab’s 1964 gelatin silver print. Photography courtesy of Korab Image and Christian Korab, Minnesota.

But, as a show like “Image Building” makes clear, there is no such thing as pure representation of buildings in photographs. The qualities of great interiors, especially, must be experienced first-hand. As Baltz said in a 1993 interview, “Architecture, real architecture, always defies reduction into two-dimensional representation. If not, it’s hardly architecture at all.”

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The Most Beautiful Place of Worship in Every State

Not only are these structures spectacular, but they’re designed by such high profile architects as Eero Saarinen, Moshe Safdie, and Frank Lloyd Wright


From coast to coast, places of worship span nearly every architectural style, whether it’s a futuristic church in rural Indiana designed by one of Finland’s greatest architects (Eero Saarinen) or the recently restored Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Unity Temple in suburban Chicago. Mormon temples’ spires soar into the skyline and some Jewish temples are shapely in style, whether it’s a modern box or in perfect pitch with Feng Shui’s curvy chi. And no matter how many decades it’s been since their construction, a tiny steeple in the woods will never slip out of vogue.

St. Lawrence Catholic Parish (Fairhope, Alabama)
With its all-wood interior, and pendant lighting, plus the octagon-shaped elevated skylight, morning sun pours into St. Lawrence Catholic Parish’s interior, reflecting off the stained-glass windows.


Church of the Holy Ascension (Unalaska Island, Aleutian Islands, Alaska)
Photographed as often as the state’s moose population, this church’s Russian icons date back to the 16th century (including a mural gifted by Russia’s last czar) and services are in Slavonic. Built in 1896, the church received a full restoration 100 years later.

Photo: Getty Images/Dmitri Kessel


First Christian Church of Phoenix (Arizona)
Based on Frank Lloyd Wright’s drawings—commissioned by Southwest Christian Seminary in 1949 but never built—First Christian Church of Phoenix’s triangle-shaped building with a 77-foot-tall spire has been a must-see for design fans since its 1973 completion. There’s also a free-standing 120-foot bell tower.

Photo: Getty Images/UIG


Eureka Springs, Arkansas (Thorncrown Chapel)
Inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic Prairie style, this 37-year-old Thorncrown Chapel crafted from mostly Southern pine wood and featuring a staggering 425 windows is on the National Register of Historic Places (a rare feat considering its age).



Temple Judea (Tarzana, California)
Earning the Herman Coliver Locus Architecture award from the AIA in 2012, the year it was completed, Temple Judea’s striking exterior includes mosaic steps and a laser-cut metal veil of Hebrew letters.

Photo: Courtesy of Herman Coliver Locus Architecture


Mile Hi Church Sanctuary (Lakewood, Colorado)
The spaceship-like design of Mile Hi Church Sanctuary, completed in 2008, features a dome with exterior arches—just like another dome structure constructed on the property during the 1970s. Sanctuary seating is angled on a half-moon curve. Pictures is the Community Center which stands adjacent to the Sanctuary.

Photo: Courtesy of Mile Hi Church MOS Photo Team


Hartford Connecticut LDS Temple (Connecticut)
With formal gardens in front, the Hartford Connecticut LDS Temple boasts an elegant entry. Once inside, this new temple (open since 2016) features gold Art Deco-like railings around the bapistry area and soaring ceilings with crown molding in the Celestial Room.

Photo: Courtesy of Hartford Connecticut LDS Temple


Historic St. Peter’s Episcopal Church (Lewes, Delaware)
Dating back to 1708, the churchyard (resting places for many notables in Lewes) in front of Historic St. Peter’s Episcopal Church is framed by a wrought-iron archway and then, beyond, is the brick chapel (built a century later). The original communion table is still in use for Sunday service.

Photo: Getty Images/John Greim

St. Bernard de Clairvaux (North Miami Beach, Florida)
St. Bernard de Clairvaux is more widely known to tourists than parishioners (for Sunday-morning mass). During the 1920s, William Randolph Hearst bought the stone monastery cloister (dating back to 1133 AD in Spain) and shuttled it to New York City in parts. Not until the middle of last century, however, was it reinstalled in Florida.


Emmanuel Episcopal Church (Athens, Georgia)
Crisscrossed wood beams and pendant lighting brighten up the interior of this Episcopal church’s new chapel in a recent renovation, recognized by AIA for the Faith & Forum National Design Award for Religious Architecture. (The church dates back to the 1890s.)

Photo: Courtesy of Houser Walker


St. Benedict’s (Captain Cook, Big Island, Hawaii)
Past its traditional Spanish Gothic exterior, St. Benedict’s—framed by lush tropical landscaping—is a tapestry of murals, frescos and folk art on the inside. Built by a priest in 1899 who also wanted to add colorful accents, he used the art to teach spiritual lessons to illiterate Hawaiians.

Photo: Getty Images/John S. Lander


First Indian Presbyterian (Kamiah, Idaho)
With its cornflower-blue exterior and charming Gothic Revival design, First Indian Presbyterian’s prairie perch is fitting. It was built in 1871 by the chief of an Indian tribe and still meets today, singing hymns in the Nez Perce language.

Photo: Getty Images/Francis Dean


Unity Temple (Oak Park, Illinois)
One of Frank Lloyd Wright’s commissioned designs, and in the same Chicago ‘burb where he raised his family, Unity Temple is fresh off an extensive facelift to the tune of $25 million that replaced every pane of glass and honored Wright’s original color palate.

Photo: Getty Images/UIG


North Christian Church (Columbus, Indiana)
Finnish architect Eero Saarinen is more widely known for his industrial designs, including the Womb chair, than places of worship but that’s what makes North Christian Church so intriguing. It was completed in 1964.

Photo: Getty Images/Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge

St. Luke the Evangelist Catholic Church (Ankeny, Iowa)
With one section of the limestone and weathering steel building jutting out into the prairie, this church is some serious eye candy. The sanctuary’s cathedral ceiling is stunning with honey-hued wood panels supported by steel beams, with pews positioned at a subtle V.

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Basilica of St. Fidelis (Victoria, Kansas)
Also called Cathedral of the Plains, this basilica—completed in 1911—is on the National Register of Historic Places and flaunts 48 stained-glass windows reportedly now worth a million dollars.

Photo: Getty Images/Wallace Garrison


Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption (Covington, Kentucky)
Since 1901, services have been held in this basilica, crafted from Bedford stone and red-ludovici roof tile and inspired by St. Denis in France. Three pipe organs prove the acoustics in here are amazing.

Photo: Getty Images/Raymond Boyd


St. Louis Cathedral (New Orleans, Louisiana)
Holding reign as the oldest continual operating Catholic cathedral in the country, St. Louis Cathedral’s triple steeples have welcomed parishioners since 1727, and rebuilt in 1794 after a fire. It’s located on Jackson Square.

Photo: Getty Images/Jeff Greenberg


Wilde Memorial Chapel (Portland, Maine)
Now a site for weddings and funerals, this gorgeous Gothic-style chapel was built in 1902, using cypress for the interior, hiring a Boston firm to craft stained-glass windows and carving oak pews by hand.

Photo: Getty Images/Portland Press Herald


Baltimore Basilica (Maryland)
Carrying the distinction of being America’s first cathedral, Baltimore Basilica was constructed in the early 1800s and received an extensive restoration over an 18-month period between 2004 and 2006. Also worth seeing: the Pope John Paul Garden next door.

Photo: Getty Images/MyLoupe


Harvard Business School (Boston)
A gift from the Harvard Business School’s class of 1959, this cylinder-shaped chapel designed by Moshe Safdie and built in 1992 received LEED Gold Certification, in 2011.

Photo: Getty Images/John Greim


Islamic Center of America (Dearborn, Michigan)
Since 1963, much of the Detroit area’s Muslim population has met in this mosque, constructed in 2005 and North America’s largest mosque. Spanning 92,000 square feet, it cost $14 million to build and can hold 1,000 people for prayer services.

Photo: Getty Images/Raymond Boyd


Saint John’s Abbey (Collegeville, Minnesota)
This Benedictine monastery was established in the 1850s by five monks from Pennsylvania and is now home to one of the country’s largest Benedictine abbeys. In 1961 Marcel Breuer constructed the church’s contemporary concrete structure, which includes the largest wall of stained glass in the world.

Photo: Getty Images/Robert W. Kelley


Fulton Chapel at University of Mississippi (Oxford)
While not used exclusively for religious services, this historic building—a landmark on campus since its 1927 debut—can accommodate up to 650 people for performances of many kinds, including theatrical events.

Photo: Getty Images/Wesley Hitt


Community Christian Church (Kansas City, Missouri)
Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture shines in the Community Christian Church design, a project he was commissioned for in 1940. But it wasn’t until 1994 that the designs for his Steeple of Light—lit every weekend—came to fruition.

Photo: Getty Images/UIG

Our Redeemer’s Lutheran Church (Helena, Montana)
Resembling a modern farmhouse, Our Redeemer’s Lutheran Church worked with an architect to create a cozy—but contemporary—vibe for Sunday services. Lots of right angles and clean lines gave the this Lutheran church a fresh look.


St. John’s Catholic Church at Creighton University (Omaha, Nebraska)
This grand chapel on Creighton University’s campus featured arched stained-glass windows, soaring ceilings and columns everywhere.

Photo: Getty Images/Eric Thayer


Ravella at Lake Las Vegas (Nevada)
Sin City is filled with wedding chapels but this one is less kitsch and more elegance, featuring columns and hand-carved pews (and no Elvis). While scriptures are being read, take a peek outside and you just might think you’re in Tuscany…not Las Vegas.

Photo: Getty Images/Ethan Miller


Stark Union Church (Stark, New Hampshire)
Particularly when fall foliage is in full swing, Stark Union Church’s open bell tower, plus the adjacent covered bridge, frames the landscape beautifully and its emerald-green shutters evoke a storybook setting.

Photo: Getty Images/Education Images


Princeton University Chapel (New Jersey)
Marked by the “Song of Vowels” sculpture (Jacques Lipchitz) out front, and next to the Firestone Library, this soaring cathedral hosts worship services every Sunday as well as concerts.

Photo: Getty Images/Barry Winiker


Loretto Chapel (Santa Fe, New Mexico)
Modeled after Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, this intimate Gothic-style chapel in downtown Santa Fe features the often-photographed, free-standing circular Miraculous Staircase.

Photo: Getty Images/Ernesto Burciaga


Saint Patrick’s Cathedral (New York, New York)
Sunlight glinting through the stained-glass windows and the vaulted ceilings create a calm setting in the midst of bustling Manhattan at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, built in 1878 and in a Neo-Gothic style. A $177 million restoration wrapped up in 2015.

Photo: Getty Images/Manuel Romano


First Baptist Church (Asheville, North Carolina)
Built in the 1920s based on architect Douglas Ellington’s designs, this dome-shaped church is packed with Art Deco detailing, such as diamond-shaped panels and floral motifs in the sanctuary, and has a brick-and-marble exterior.

Photo: Getty Images/Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge

Gol Stave Church (Minot, North Dakota)
Located in Scandinavian Heritage Park, which was established in the late ‘80s, structures reminiscent of what you’d find in Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark are here. Gol Stave Church is one of those, a true replica of the church in Gol, Hallingdal, Norway.


The Old Stone Church (Cleveland, Ohio)
Dating back to 1855, a medieval exterior gives way to Tiffany stained-glass windows inside Old Stone Church where not only are Presbyterian services held on Sunday, so is weekday afternoon yoga.

Photo: Getty Images/Raymond Boyd


Boston Avenue United Methodist Church (Tulsa, Oklahoma)
Towering above downtown Tulsa, Boston Avenue United Methodist Church’s Art Deco design debuted in 1929. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places.

Photo: Getty Images/Jordan McAlister

Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Central Oregon (Bend)
Modern in design, the Unitarian church in Bend—completed in 2016—was also designed to be sustainable and eco-friendly. It spans 19,000 square feet and has breathed new life into the church, including a boost in membership.


Beth Sholom Synagogue (Elkins Park, Pennsylvania)
Frank Lloyd Wright’s lone synagogue design lies in this Philly suburb riffs on Mayan Revival architecture and its interior lighting casts a soft glow at night, as seen from outside, and thanks to translucent fiberglass walls.

Photo: Getty Images/Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge


Church of St. Gregory the Great (Portsmouth, Rhode Island)
On the Portsmouth Abbey campus, Church of St. Gregory the Great’s design—at the hands of architect Pietro Belluschi, featuring a redwood interior and fieldstone walls (sourced from nearby land)—was inspired by a 16th Century church in Ravenna, Italy.

Photo: Getty Images/Elise Amendola-Pool


Unitarian Church in Charleston (South Carolina)
A popular tourist attraction is the Unitarian Church in Charleston’s Gothic-style graveyard with its drooping Spanish moss. Tours of the church’s interior—completed just after the Revolutionary War in 1776, making it Charleston’s second-oldest church, and inspired by Chapel of Henry VII at Westminster Abbey—are led by docents each September through June.

Photo: Getty Images/River North Photography


Chapel in the Hills (Rapid City, South Dakota)
This eye-catching design recalls Norway, not South Dakota, but that’s because Chapel in the Hills ( hearkens back to South Dakotans’ Norwegian heritage. Built in the 1960s, it’s a replica of the Borgund stavkirke, which dates back to 1150 AD and is in Laerdal, Norway.

Photo: Courtesy of Brian and Joyce Kringen


Fisk Memorial Chapel at Fisk University (Nashville, Tennessee)
Located on the Fisk University campus, the chapel has welcomed guest preachers like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Jesse Jackson since its 1892 construction. Among the unique attributes are the church’s three-sided balcony, and one of the country’s finest pipe organs.

Photo: Getty Images/Raymond Boyd


Chapel of Thanksgiving (Dallas, Texas)
Thanks-Giving Square in downtown Dallas is marked by this Phillip Johnson-designed chapel the resembles a wedding cake. It debuted along with the square in 1976. The stunning stained-glass window (Glory Window by Gabriel Loire) on a spiral ceiling is a must-see.

Photo: Getty Images/Raymond Boyd


Salt Lake Temple (Salt Lake City, Utah)
Since its construction in 1893, this temple has served as an inspiring design for other LDS Church temples around the United States. It’s also the largest of all temples, clocking in at 253,015 square feet and took 40 years to complete.

Photo: Getty Images/Bloomberg


Union Christian Church (Plymouth, Vermont)
The craftsmanship inside Union Christian Church, which was built during the 1840s, truly shines, including the wooden walls and ceiling. Fun historical fact: President Calvin Coolidge used to be a member of this church and he lived across the street.

Photo: Getty Images/John Greim


Chapel by Arlington National Cemetery (Fort Myer, Virginia)
In addition to regular services, the chapel—next to Arlington National Cemetery—is used for military funeral services led by a chaplain and is an excellent example of timeless design with its spire and shapely roof.

Photo: Getty Images/Nicholas Kamm


Washington National Cathedral (Washington, D.C.)
As grand as Europe’s ancient churches, Washington National Cathedral was constructed in the nation’s capital in 1907 and has received many refurbishments since, honoring the merging of Neo-Gothic and English Gothic styles. It’s also the country’s second-largest church and on the National Register of Historic Places.

Photo: Getty Images/Salwan Georges/The Washington Post


Seattle University’s Chapel of St. Ignatius (Washington)
At first glance, one might mistake Chapel of St. Ignatius for a contemporary-art museum, but no, it’s a place of worship, designed by Steven Holl in 1997. Interior pendant lighting (with exposed bulbs) and white concaved ceilings create an intimate, softer feeling than the modernized exterior.

Photo: Getty Images/Dennis Gilbert


Palace of Gold (Moundsville, West Virginia)
Rural Appalachia skewed artsy in 1979 with the construction of Palace of Gold, an ornate palace with blooming rose gardens and a staggering 100 water fountains outside. Marble imported from various spots around the world clocks in at 52 different varieties, and 1,500 pieces of stained-glass are within four windows, proof no luxury was spared in its construction.

Photo: Getty Images/Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post


Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church (Wauwatosa, Wisconsin)
Resembling a spaceship, the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in suburban Milwaukee is eye-catching, with its floating bowl shape. While based on Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs, it was one of his final commission and not unveiled until two years after he died, in 1961.

Photo: Getty Images/Raymond Boyd


Saint John’s Episcopal Church Chapel of the Transfiguration (Moose, Wyoming)
Is there anything more charming than a steeple tucked into nature? Chapel of the Transfiguration is within Grand Teton National Park and constructed from logs, built in 1925. Holy Communion is on Sundays but only during the summer and seats just 65 people.

Photo: Getty Images/MyLoupe
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