“Churches for Today”: Modernism and Suburban Expansion in Postwar America

Quadrant: Design, Architecture, and Culture

After WW II, America's religious denominations spread into the rapidly developing suburbs, in the process spending billions of dollars on architecture. These buildings are a revealing repository of the history of American religion in the postwar years, its ecumenism, its optimism, and its liturgical innovation as well as its fears about the increasing irrelevance of institutional religion at a time when cultural and social change and demographic shifts transformed society. This is the first comprehensive study of the emerging religious culture of postwar suburban churches, investigated primarily through the lens of their material culture. This study considers the buildings, written records, and oral histories of about seventy-five congregations in the Midwest, where the modern-style church found particular purchase. It is anchored in the work of three contrasting architects, Edward Dart (1922-75), Edward A. Sovik (1918- ), and Charles E. Stade (1924-93). While carefully attending to church architecture, this larger significance of this study lies in its analysis and interpretation of postwar American society and religious life.

University of Minnesota