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17 Avant-Garde Churches Bucking the Cathedral Standard

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There's no denying that architects, as a whole, have a huge fat crush on churches, chapels, and other houses of the holy. Yes, conversions (whether they be into glossy homes, otherworldly libraries, or 'rock n roll' restaurants) are popular, but there's also ample evidence to support the idea that chapels are really fun to design from scratch, particularly if one could make the building look like a deluge of random crap avant-garde. There's no shortage of churches that resemble skirts or spools of ribbon or eggs or—well, you get the idea. Here now, 17 wacky churches, from South Korea to Belgium to Calgary, Canada.

↑ While it's true that the majority of history's most celebrated cathedrals are indeed vaguely cruciform, this contemporary wonder by Danish architecture firm (and pushers of man-made ski domes) CEBRA takes a good thing and, uh, dons it with the track lighting of Tron and the effusive dramatics of a Broadway production of Jesus Christ Super Star. CEBRA's design for a church in Valer, Norway, even goes so far as to partially rise from the ground—the most delicate of imagery. [link]

↑ Apparently deciding that cathedral ceilings, steeples, and bell towers, are pass&eacute NYC-based architects CAZA designed this maze, called 100 Walls Church, for Cebu City, Philippines. It's all meant to "represent the enigmatic nature of religion," through its "ambiguous form." [link]

↑ Last year the Seattle architecture elite at Olson Kundig Architects unveiled their chromatic rehab for a 1950s chuch. With long bands of tinted glass, the structure essentially one giant modern, deconstructed stained glass window. [link]

↑ The Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, was designed by architect Frederick Gibberd in the 1960s, but it wasn't until this decade that the brutalist structure earned a spot on The Telegraph's list of the ugliest buildings on Earth. [link]

↑ Miami's most bizarre Catholic chapel may soon be this swooshy structure, designed by Fernando Romero's global firm FR-EE. The church, which kind of looks like a ball gown skirt, is actually designed so every pleat has a purpose: from the inside, each billow creates a nook dedicated to a virgin revered in the Latin American Catholic community. Each sanctuary houses a sculpture of the virgin, and together, the 27 enclaves encircle the central congregational space. The inside's pretty stellar, too. [link]

↑ Japan's Ribbon Chapel looks like a partially-unspooled package of thick-cut ribbon, though it's essentially just a pair of spiral staircases surrounding a glass-enclosed room. It's the work of Japanese architect Hiroshi Nakamura for the Seto Inland Sea Resort. [link]

↑ Dutch architects Pieterjan Gijs and Arnout Van Vaerenbergh made this chapel in Borgloon, Belgium, out of 100 evenly spaced planks of steel. The steeple and nave, constructed in 2011, are totally transparent at eye-level, but look solid from either above or below. [link]

↑ After the February 2011 earthquake destroyed the 1864 Anglican cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand, the city asked Tokyo-based architect (and now Pritzker winner!) Shigeru Ban to build a quake-proof cathedral. Expected to withstand about 50 years of weather and wear, Cardboard Cathedral is meant to be a stand-in for the community while another cathedral—you know, one not made 98 cardboard tubes—is built. [link]

↑ The Mormon temple in Washington, D.C., may be derided by locals as "Disney Castle," though, as previously noted, its vast and chilly marble frontage makes it more modernism on steroids than Magic Kingdom.[link]

↑ This postmodern church in South Korea shuns the embellishment of other cathedrals in favor of, um, a raw concrete cross. Designed by a firm known as Nameless Architects, the RW Concrete Church in Byeollae, South Korea aims to evoke "a feeling, not of a city already completed, but a building on a new landscape." It's bleak, yes, though purposefully. It's actually, don't you know, "a metaphor for religious values that are not easily changed in an era of unpredictability." [link]

↑ Six decades after the Spanish Civil War decimated the Spanish town of Corbera d'Ebre, the local government commissioned Spanish architect Ferran Vizoso to reclaim the roofless ruins of the town's church, a high-naved, colonnaded structure perched atop a hill. Instead of trying to recreate the style of its stone edifice, Vizoso cleaned up what was left and placed on top of it all a transparent plastic roof to shelter its users and halt deterioration due to rain and wind. [link]

↑ Back in January 2012, the 80-year-old Italian lighting company Luminaire de Cagna installed 55,000 LED lights in the colonnade of a cathedral in Ghent, Belgium. It rises over 90 feet high, transforming the Romanesque building into a larger-than-life mosaic. [link]

↑ Despite the fact that its steeples make this building bear an uncanny resemblance to Batman, the Siegerland Motorway Church is, in fact, a roadside chapel and not, as one may believe, a shrine to the great Caped Crusader. It's on the outskirts of Wilnsdorf, Germany, and designed to look like the iconography of the "church ahead" symbol found on German highway signs.

Related: Na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na BATCHURCH. [link]

↑ As part of a project wherein contemporary writers and artists grapple with the text of the Torah, New York architecture firm Hollwich Kushner (HWKN) created hypothetical renderings for a Tabernacle designed to squeeze into the heart of Manhattan, an airy structure with all the dimensions—cubits!—God enumerated in Exodus, but rotated 90 degrees to fit a narrow urban footprint. The result is an open, wall-like structure threaded with staircases leading up to the Golden Alter and down to the Brazen Alter. Because they took the measurements verbatim, the firm—co-headed by Architizer co-founder Marc Kushner—couldn't design walls on all sides, making the religious building unusually "accessible and transparent." So says Kushner: "In the end it looks a lot like an International Style skyscraper. Maybe that was God telling us that we should be Modernists, not Classicists." So where are the cherubim, goat hair curtains, and dolphin skins? Uh, yeah. Not here. [link]

↑ This upside-down New England-style church, first showcased for the Vancouver Biennale art fair in 1997, was designed by the late American artist Dennis Oppenheim and first showcased for the Vancouver Biennale art fair in 1997. Known as "Device to Root Out Evil," the aluminum structure was later moved to Calgary, where it continued to be a figure of controversy. "Turning something upside-down elicits a reversal of content," Oppenheim once explained. "And pointing a steeple into the ground directs it to hell as opposed to heaven." [link]

Nested—har!—in the hills of Yangpyeong County near Seoul, South Korea, is this futuristic, egg-shaped chapel designed by New York-based architect Andrew MacNair. The walls of "Capella Ovi" were hand-constructed by U.S. boat builders, experts in paneling curvy, 3D frames. Once the pieces were built, the chapel was shipped in 12 parts to South Korea, where it was put together by a local family. It stands 30 feet high and 22 feet wide at its broadest point. [link]

↑ Previously described as "Mormon architecture at its most postmodern," the Guatemala City Temple is a deconstruction of the classic Mormon church design, with four free-standing spires. [link]

· All Churches posts [Curbed National]
· All Architectural Craziness posts [Curbed National]