Our Building : : History
If a building is honest, the architecture is religious."
These are the words of renowned Finnish-American architect Eliel Saarinen, designer of the sanctuary of Christ Church Lutheran. Saarinen’s “honest” use of light, brick, stone, concrete and wood create a space of stunning simplicity, tranquility, and spirituality. Since its construction in 1949, it has been the focus of fascination by architects, photographers, students, and those seeking a place of worship, community, beauty and solace.
When the congregation sought to complement the sanctuary with an education building, they looked to Eliel’s son, Eero Saarinen. Eero was acclaimed for his exuberantly futuristic designs such as the Gateway Arch (St. Louis, Missouri), Washington Dulles International Airport, and the TWA Flight Center at New York's JFK airport (now part of Terminal 5).
In contrast, the education building is a subdued yet lovely and joyful homage to his father’s masterpiece. It was completed in 1962 and houses a beautiful lounge, spacious education rooms, a sky-lit atrium and a gymnasium with a theater stage. The original furnishings include many iconic mid-century modern designs by Hans J. Wegner, Ray and Charles Eames and others.
The joined pair of buildings stands today as the only example of the father’s and son’s individual works combined.
The people of Christ Church Lutheran invite you to enjoy this remarkable, serene and historic space. Experience our welcoming community at one of our worship services, concerts and exhibits, or architectural tours.
Christ Church Lutheran is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was designated a National Historic Landmark in January 2009. In 1977, the building received the American Institute of Architects’ 25-Year Award, crediting the influence of the building on church design in the second half of the 20th century. In the award, the AIA described the church as “a living symbol of architectural integrity... a building with great dramatic effect and architectural impact, and yet which retains a very human scale and possesses a feeling of serenity and repose.”
"Christ Church Lutheran, Minneapolis, MN, holds national significance as one of the most celebrated works by Eliel Saarinen, who was among the nation’s most acclaimed architects and architectural educators of the 20th century. Saarinen was on the leading edge of the modernist movement and played a pivotal role in the emergence of modernist religious architecture in the United States." Read More...
— From the News Release Interior Secretary Kempthorne Designates 9 National Historic Landmarks in 9 States, January 16, 2009, U.S. Department of the Interior
Additional coverage and images in the Star Tribune:
Landmark church takes its place in history by Rochelle Olson
A portfolio of images by architect Pete Sieger, working with Tom Dolan, to record the beauty of Eero Saarinen's design of Christ Church Lutheran.
Christ Church Lutheran and Saarinen Timeline:
1873: Eliel Saarinen born in
1910: Eero Saarinen born in Kirkkonummi, Finland
1923: Saarinen family moves to the United States
1932: Eliel becomes president of Cranbrook Academy of Art
1936: Eero joins father's firm and Cranbrook faculty
1940: With Charles Eames, Eero wins two first prizes for furniture design, Museum of Modern Art
1949: Christ Church Lutheran is built
1950: Eliel dies in Bloomfield Hills, MI
1952: Eero is elected a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (AIA)
1961: Eero dies in Ann Arbor, MI
1962: Christ Church Lutheran’s Education wing is completed
1962: Eero posthumously awarded AIA’s Gold Medal
1965: St Louis Gateway Arch completed
1977: Christ Church Lutheran receives AIA’s 25-Year Award
2001: Christ Church Lutheran receives National Register of Historic places designation
2009: Christ Church Lutheran receives National Historic Landmark designation
For more information, visit the Friends of Christ Church Lutheran website at www.FriendsofCCL.org.