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December 12, 2017

The taxonomy of Akron-Auditorium churches has emerged from the sheer bulk of examples in the database. Accumulate a large enough selection — drawn largely from the common penny postcard — and patterns emerge. Not only have eighteen types been drawn from the 4000+ examples we’ve accumulated (a few of which are possible but highly unlikely), there are several sub-types and some that can be characterized with acronyms, catch-phrases we use in ongoing discussions.

The database has also helped to identify clusters of churches designed by the same architect, based on the near identicality. But other observations are equally interesting for no particular reason whatsoever. Consider these two Iowa churches in Bedford and Alta as simple exercises in massing, exterior forms that often represent similarities in interior arrangement. The book-matched facades; the corner entry tower as fulcrum; the auxiliary entries at the outside corners — I doubt these were designed by the same architect, but they might as well have been. Squint your eyes and you’ll see what I mean.

In a casual conversation with an undergraduate student yesterday afternoon, I found myself waxing ecstatic about the joys of architectural research and probably spent fifteen minutes rhapsodizing about these two ungainly examples. That may be the single most interesting aspect of such a long term study: an appreciation for architecture having practically nothing to do with “pretty”. Akron-Auditorium churches are, by and large, homely. But it has been my contention that they represent a uniquely American contribution to the history of religious building types, these ungainly, often clumsy designs represent the very best of American innovation. I’m proud to ahve invested twenty years of my academic life trying to understand them.

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One Comment
  1. timothy eckersley permalink

    I continue to look forward to seeing your typology: when will you reveal it?

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