Yesterday’s church of tomorrow: Hyperbolic paraboloids and post-war ecclesiastical architecture

Szynalska McAleavey, Karolina and Foley, Harry Patrick (2021) Yesterday’s church of tomorrow: Hyperbolic paraboloids and post-war ecclesiastical architecture. Twentieth Century Architecture . ISSN 1353-1964

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Abstract

Consecrated in autumn 1963, the parish church of St. John the Baptist in Lincoln is a major contribution to the canon of ecclesiastical architecture of the second half of the 20th century in England. This avant-garde building is the central feature of the post-war Ermine East council estate. Its importance lies in combining innovative minimalist architectural thinking with advanced liturgical planning. The structure was designed by an architect largely invisible in the field’s history, Sam Scorer, and a structural engineer, Hajnal Konyi. It consists of an impressive hyperbolic paraboloid roof cast in reinforced concrete and features bespoke stained glass by Keith New. Its form was fashionable yet functional and gave an impression of defying the laws of gravity. As a piece, it summarizes the post-war excitement surrounding engineering.

This paper will discuss Scorer's St. John the Baptist church in the context of other Anglican churches featuring hyperbolic paraboloid roofs, including Sam Scorer's project for Welwyn Garden City, Alison and Peter Smithsons' competition entry for Coventry Cathedral, and the now demolished St John's church in Macclesfield by the architect Kenneth Paterson of Paterson Macauley Owens.

These precedents will be assessed using two main perspectives; one focusing on the then contemporary liturgical movement that sparked excitement in the possibilities of ecclesiastical spatial arrangements afforded by large span hyperbolic paraboloid roofs; the other situating the building at the core of its council estate community and elaborating on the cooperative procurement of the building and its fit-out. Whilst historical evidence for the former can rely on established sources for architectural analysis, the latter, more people-focused approach, will enrich our understanding by using community archives and oral accounts.

Keywords:Sam Scorer, Hypar, Hyperbolic paraboloid, Hajnal Konyi, post-war architecture, ecclesiastical architecture
Subjects:K Architecture, Building and Planning > K110 Architectural Design Theory
K Architecture, Building and Planning > K100 Architecture
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V360 History of Architecture
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V147 Modern History 1950-1999
K Architecture, Building and Planning > K130 Architectural Technology
Divisions:College of Arts > School of Architecture & Design > School of Architecture & Design (Architecture)
ID Code:34213
Deposited On:07 Jan 2019 11:30

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