Modern church architecture doesn’t seem to get a lot of love these days. The general trend, at least in the U.S., is toward historicizing forms that echo Romanesque, Gothic, Classical, or Baroque forms. And it is perfectly fine if people want to build in those styles—though I must say that many of the recent examples of such churches don’t do much for me, seeming to be pale imitations of the buildings they seek to replicate, not much better than the Pizza-hut style churches that proliferated in the 1970s and 80s. Like those churches, these traditionally-styled churches too often have a cheap, mass-produced feel, or seem like a stage set of what someone thinks a church ought to look like (this is a particular problem when modern churches are remodeled by having a “traditional” sanctuary inserted into them).
In any case, I recently stumbled across a collection of photographs of modernist/brutalist churches by Thibaud Poirier that are quite stunning. Of course, they are as much if not more an example of photographic art as of architectural accomplishment, but they do convey the kind of grandeur and beauty that the best modernist architecture is capable of. Also, aesthetics is not the only consideration in church building, and in some cases I wonder how well these structures accommodate the action of the liturgy, which must have primacy in judging a church building. Still, these striking photographs suggest that Modern churches, at their best, can stand alongside the best of Romanesque, Gothic, Classical, or Baroque churches.
They also remind us that far more important that the imitation of past “sacred” styles is a sense of proportion and design, along with quality of materials and their honest deployment. Not all of the churches Poirier has photographed are to my liking, but they all strike me as serious attempts to create authentic sacred spaces, and as such are worth a look.