North Christian Church – Exterior (1964)
Eero Saarinen, Architect
Daniel Kiley, Landscape Architect
850 Tipton Lane, Columbus IN
Photographs taken March 16, 2012
This is one of my favorite buildings. I have visited this building 4 times, and each time I am more impressed with it’s “complex simplicity” (this term is borrowed from a business associate who summarized my rambling passionate description of the building concisely).
Saarinen’s path he creates for the faithful (and tourist alike) is a sequence of carefully and subtly planned discoveries. Starting with Dan Kiley’s landscaping, each parking area is separated with rows of hedges just high enough to screen the cars, but the hovering hexagonal church is visible just above the hedges. The procession takes you through the only opening in the hedges on axis with the church’s exceptionally tall and slender steeple and main entrance. Past the last row of parking spaces, there is a stairway taking you up through the center of a bank of flowers approaching the church. Here you see that the hexagonal structure is centered in a recess in the ground, raised on a bunker-like base with a landscaped bank surrounding the church. You then drop down a series of low and very deep steps, “ducking” below the low metal eave, revealing the tall glass windows tucked up in the shadows of the steeply sloping soffit. The series of glass entry doors open up the glass perimeter wall allowing entry to the interior. See the next post for photos of the interior of this landmark church.
The hexagonal form is stretched in the east/west direction creating a bit of dynamism, but maintains it’s pure simple presense, floating slightly above the earth, and pointing directly to the heavens.