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North Christian Church, Eero Saarinen - Columbus, Indiana
First Baptist Church interior, Harry Weese - Columbus, Indiana

COLUMBUS, INDIANA ARCHITECTURE – CHURCHES

First Christian Church aerial photo by Phil Hanna
First Christian Church - interior - Eliel Saarinen
First Christian Church, Eliel Saarinen, 1942
About

531 5th Street, Columbus
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The First Christian Church was designed by architect Eliel Saarinen, father of Eero Saarinen. Completed in 1942, it was the first contemporary building in Columbus and one of the first churches of contemporary architecture in the United States. The geometric design is one of direct simplicity. A large stone cross accents the limestone façade. To the west stands the 166-foot high campanile, or free-standing bell tower. The materials, exterior and interior, are mostly buff brick and limestone.

North Christian Church, photo by Rhonda Bolner
North Christian Church - interior
North Christian Church, Eero Saarinen, 1964
About

850 Tipton Lane, Columbus
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Eero Saarinen designed North Christian Church, which was completed in 1964. This is the last building designed by Eero Saarinen before his untimely death on September 1, 1961. Roche Dinkeloo & Associates, the successor architectural firm, completed the building. The sloping roof of this six-sided building blends with the landscaped earth-mound which surrounds it. This low line accentuates the slender 192-foot spire, topped with a gold-leaf cross, which gives its distinctive design. Dan Kiley landscaped the multi-acre site, including the parking lot with parking rooms.

In April 1961, Saarinen wrote, “We have finally to solve this church so that it can become a great building. I feel I have this obligation to the congregation, and as an architect, I have that obligation to my profession and my ideals. I want to solve it so that as an architect when I face St. Peter I am able to say that out of the buildings I did during my lifetime, one of the best was this little church, because it has in it a real spirit that speaks forth to all Christians as a witness to their faith.”

first-baptist-columbus-in
First Baptist Church, Harry Weese - interior - Columbus, Indiana
First Baptist Church, Harry Weese, 1965
About

3300 Fairlawn Dr, Columbus
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First Baptist Church is positioned on the brow of a gently sloping knoll. This elevation, combined with its peaked non-dimensional bell tower, emphasizes the building’s function as a place of worship.

The steep roof, twice as high as the supporting brick walls, is covered with hand-laid slate. The highlight of the interior design is a wall of pierced brick at the front of the chancel.

The predominant silhouette of the two-story building on the hill are two steeply pitched A-frame slate roofs, one smaller than the other. Both roofs at one end have a brick wall that extends above the roof, one with a singular round opening for a bell, which designates this as a place of worship.

The main congregational entry is approached by a drive up the hill to a T-shaped opening in a brick wall across a bridge and over a moat-like space that brings light to the lower level. The narthex is a low ceiling space which creates a sense of humility before ascending stairs to the dramatic sanctuary.

The sanctuary is essentially windowless except for the vertical skylights at the front, which highlight a “pierced” brick wall that screens the choir, organ and baptistry behind and narrow glazed openings between the roof overhang and the brick walls.

A centrally suspended wood cross provides a focal point in the random pattern of the brick wall.

St. Peter's Lutheran Church - Columbus, Indiana
St. Peter's Church interior - Columbus, Indiana
St. Peter's Lutheran, Gunnar Birkerts, 1988
About

719 Fifth St, Columbus
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St. Peter’s Lutheran Church lifts itself among the surrounding spires with its 186-foot copper-clad spire. The structure is reinforced concrete, clad in brick and copper. The interior of the sanctuary is an interesting blend of white flat and curved surfaces. Artificial and natural lighting, maple furniture, limestone and maple liturgical furnishings and a variety of textures add to the interest.

First Christian Church, Eliel Saarinen, 1942

St. Peter's Lutheran, Gunnar Birkerts, 1988

Map of First Christian and St. Peter’s

North Christian Church, Eero Saarinen, 1964

First Baptist Church, Harry Weese, 1965

Map of North Christian and First Baptist