Building History


photo: Pete Sieger


“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 in 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.” — From the news release in which Secretary Dirk Kempthorne designates nine National Historic Landmarks in nine states, January 16, 2009, U.S. Department of the Interior.