Photography: Mid-Century Modern Churches by Fabrice Fouillet

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As Europe recovered from the death and destruction of World War II, countries got back to the business of rebuilding their communities and, of course, their churches. The need to make sense of the madness of the War was palpable – as was the need to express this modern-day spirituality in a form that radically broke from tradition.

The result was a bevy of European churches that – although often misunderstood by practitioners - represent some of our best-preserved examples of Modernist architecture. Photographer Fabrice Fouillet  made it his mission to photograph these beauties in a series he calls “Corpus Christi.” You can see the images – as well as Fouillet’s description of the work – after the break…

Pietro Belluschi’s Church of Mary of the Assumption, San Francisco, 1971. Photo © Fabrice Fouillet

Fabrice Fouilet’s Description of “Corpus Christi”

Corpus Christi highlights the architectural aesthetic of the new places of worship and their hymn to minimalism, which has represented a genuine creative inspiration in modern religious architecture.

Participating in a movement initiated in the 1920s and perpetuated by great architects such as Guillaume Gillet, Gottfried Böhm and Auguste Perret, most of these churches were built in the 1950-60s. 

Nicholas Kasiz’ St.Remy,1957. Photo © Fabrice Fouillet

Scattered throughout Europe and the world, they reveal a new conception of the sacred, a representation of the divine imbued with modernity, thus triggering a debate and a rejection from some architects and members of the clergy.

I have chosen to capture this break with centuries of architectural tradition, the choice of materials; reinforced concrete, plastic, crystal, diffusion of diaphanous or bright light, and to draw the viewer’s attention to the altar at the bottom of the picture, respecting a perfect symmetry, while the height of the building confronts our smallness to the greatness of the sacred.

Via Fabrice Fouillet’s Website 

Cite: Quirk, Vanessa. "Photography: Mid-Century Modern Churches by Fabrice Fouillet" 17 Dec 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 24 Oct 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=305871>
  • Mary

    St Ludwig in Saarelouis, Gottfried Böhm not Bohn!

    • http://www.archdaily.com Vanessa Quirk

      Thanks Mary – typo fixed!

  • Jon Rozenbergs

    What’s most fascinating about churches from this time period that differs from canonized contemporary ones is the exploration of very traditional ecclesiastical themes in a completely modernist manner of working. If one looks at the course of architectural history of the church, the ideas that architects/master masons struggled with where the mediation of church programs (the liturgy) and the general public, the dematerialization of form, light and darkness modulated through mass/void, the innovation of structure in respect to the church programs, and the function of ornament. What makes these mid-century examples so wonderful and relevant is the way they assert the continued importance of these traditions in the new language of modern architecture. I would argue that designers of many contemporary churches focus heavily on program (as a function of condition and square footage) and the the formal interpretation of the client congregration’s ideology without considering how they bear on structure, light, and material. Consequently, the architectural manifestation of many of the themes that traditionally define a church and its architectural form are ignored or forgotten in contemporary design processes.

  • John-David Carling

    what church is the title photo?

    • Rik

      Eglise st. martin in Donges, France.

  • Marie Peyre

    Tromsø Arctic Cathedral in Northern Norway http://www.visitnorway.com/en/Product/?pid=89967 and Mortensrud Church just outside Oslo :-) http://www.visitnorway.com/en/Product/?id=&pid=46205

  • Andrew`

    Interested in the name of the church in the title image as well

    • Rik

      Eglise st. Martin in Donges, France