The Suburban Church: Modernism and Community in Postwar America (Architecture, Landscape and Amer Culture) (Paperback)
After World War II, America’s religious denominations spent billions on church architecture as they spread into the suburbs. In this richly illustrated history of midcentury modern churches in the Midwest, Gretchen Buggeln shows how architects and suburban congregations joined forces to work out a vision of how modernist churches might help reinvigorate Protestant worship and community. The result is a fascinating new perspective on postwar architecture, religion, and society.
Drawing on the architectural record, church archives, and oral histories, The Suburban Church focuses on collaborations between architects Edward D. Dart, Edward A. Sövik, Charles E. Stade, and seventy-five congregations. By telling the stories behind their modernist churches, the book describes how the buildings both reflected and shaped developments in postwar religion—its ecumenism, optimism, and liturgical innovation, as well as its fears about staying relevant during a time of vast cultural, social, and demographic change.
While many scholars have characterized these congregations as “country club” churches, The Suburban Church argues that most were earnest, well-intentioned religious communities caught between the desire to serve God and the demands of a suburban milieu in which serving middle-class families required most of their material and spiritual resources.
About the Author
Gretchen Buggeln holds the Phyllis and Richard Duesenberg Chair in Christianity and the Arts at Valparaiso University. She is author of Temples of Grace: The Material Transformation of Connecticut’s Churches, 1790–1840.
"Gretchen Buggeln’s The Suburban Church beautifully recovers the life and cultural significance of a post-1945 American regional architecture so ubiquitous we’ve hardly noticed it. Focused on the prodigious output of three prominent Midwest architects, The Suburban Church pops their sanctuaries into view so forcefully that readers will never drive by again without stopping—a transforming and deft cultural reconstruction."—Jon Butler, Yale University
"There’s value in [Buggeln’s] documentation, especially as many of those involved in building the churches have passed away. It’s no small compliment to say that her enthusiasm for the individuals in this movement is winning."—TheNew Republic
"Intended for graduate students and their professors, the book might nonetheless gain some attention from pastors and those appointed to building committees."—Catholic Library World
"Buggeln’s thorough study of the suburban American church is a great read, full of detail delivered through superb architectural historical story-telling."—Art and Christianity
"A fascinating account of the philosophical and practical origins of these churches and a paean to the vibrant communities that built and used them."—Marginalia
"Preservationists, church members, historians, and students of suburbs should all rely on this essential work."—David R. Bains, The Annals of Iowa
"This is an excellent and detailed account of the postwar growth in Protestant church building and architecture in the Midwest. A passionate story."—Journal of American Culture
"Buggeln's well-written, engaging, and detailed text will be of great use to historians of architecture, as well as religion. She has conducted exhaustive research from a wide variety of sources including church memorabilia and records, oral histories, architectural drawings, and contemporary newspapers and periodicals, in addition to the essential secondary texts."—Buildings Landscapes