What is the significance of religious architecture today, if there is any? The program of the church in America has, over the past few centuries, undergone significant typological, social, and cultural transformations: from the first wooden New England meeting house of the 1600s to the Romanesque revival of the 19th century, to today being absorbed into a type of American big box architecture. This thesis uses the backdrop of Plymouth, Massachusetts, to investigate the development of New England churches and their history and asks the question: What is the role of architecture in religious buildings?
In 1938, the German architect Rudolf Schwarz stated that the postwar task of the time was “to build churches out of that reality which we experience and verify every day.”1 Rather than reminiscing on the nostalgic past of the church as an institution, this thesis reconsiders the church as it is currently and how architecture can facilitate its activities. The struggle between big box and cathedral, banal and numinous, institutional and communal, symbol and anti-symbol, duck and shed is manifested through a series of wall constructions that express these dilemmas as a struggle between the free section and the free plan.
Given the events of a typical Sunday service, the proposal creates a novel way of looking at the sequential progression of the service in addition to the physical construction of a new New England church.
1 Rudolf Schwarz, The Church Incarnate: The Sacred Function of Christian Architecture (Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1958).