Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Marcel Breuer’s Saint Francis de Sales Church, Muskegon, Michigan

Elevation views and a couple of interior views of Saint Francis de Sales Church, Muskegon, Michigan, which was designed by Marcel Breuer and Associates and dedicated in 1966 (cornerstone states 1966). The building is positioned on an east/west axis and faces east in the traditional manner. Photographs by David Versluis © 2012

In the reference book, Design in the 20th Century, Charlotte & Peter Fiell explain, “He [Breuer] founded Marcel Breuer and Associates in New York in 1956, and around that time, like Le Corbusier, made concrete his material of choice. He used this medium in a highly sculptural and innovative way for his design of the monumental Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1966).” [1]

Like the Whitney, the church in Muskegon is constructed with site-cast concrete in molds. In spite of a later addition the original impact of the church building is still very evident. One of the most striking features of this building is it’s mathematical, hyperbolic paraboloid form, which builds a structure constructed of entirely straight lines but the visual effect creates a curve. In other words, the back is opposite the front and the sides result in a curved surface. Other compelling features include the cantilevered belfry and the massive sculptured-relief cross beneath it.

As a side note: Another example of Christian church architecture, by Breuer, is the St John’s Abbey Church located in Collegeville, Minnesota.

  1. Fiell, Charlotte, and Peter Fiell. “Marcel Breuer.” Design of the 20th Century. Ed. Susanne Husemann. 1999. 134-35. Print.

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