Earlier today the National Churches Trust released its list of the ten best modern churches in the UK. This juried competition was held to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Trust by highlighting the best sacred spaces built in the UK in the last 60 years.
First prize was awarded to St Paul Church, Bow Common in London. Long considered a masterpiece of contemporary church architecture, this iconic Anglican church is made even more impressive by the fact that its architects, Keith Murray and Robert Maguire were both in their early 20s when they designed the church in 1960.
In the above video, former vicar, Duncan Ross sums up the church’s characteristics and sense of space:
It’s not 60s flares, really, which soon die and you’re embarrassed by. There’s something very ancient about this building, which gives it a rootedness. I think it’s based on the most profound truths about relationship, which is that people need to see each other, need to be connected with each other, and need to gather together with each other.
Several Roman Catholic churches also made the top ten: St Mary Church, Leyland, Lancashire (1964), St Bride Church, East Kilbride, Lanarkshire (1964), St Francis Xavier Church, Falkirk (1961), and Ss Mary & Joseph Church, Poplar, London (1954).
This competition represents a wider movement within the field of historic preservation, which is beginning to recognize Mid-Century Modern buildings as being architecturally and historically significant. Churches from this era are certainly significant from a liturgical standpoint as well. This was an era of exploration and transition. Changing ideas about architecture, art, and liturgy fueled an era of unparalleled creativity, as seen in the churches represented in this competition.
What do you think? Are there other churches that you would add to this list? What would you consider the best churches designed in the United States over the past 60 years?