Wayfarer''s Chapel - Part 2

Continuing our series on the Wayfarer’s Chapel, a landmark redwood building by Lloyd Wright.

From: http://www.artsandarchitecturecollection.com/los.angeles/wayfarers.chape…


The Wayfarer’s Chapel, designed by Lloyd Wright and built by the Swedenborgian Church, is a Los Angeles gem of exquisite beauty and spirituality. This 63-year old church, a most unusual work of architectural art made almost entirely of glass, radiates transparency, friendship and community. The building in and of itself is an object lesson in teaching truth and honesty. The spirit of the church arose from an appreciation of the beauty of nature, and a will to express that beauty as divinity itself.

The Swedenborgian Church in North America draws its Christian faith from the Bible as illuminated by the teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772). The Swedenborgian Church is comprised of around 1,800 members. As a loose affiliation of regional associations, the Church does not make any statements as to the exact authority of Swedenborg’s writings on the Bible or to the correctness of either. Each Society and member is given the responsibility to arrive at their own conclusions, and the denomination allows for engaging discussion and debate.

Swedenborgians have a keen history of commissioning and building unique architectural houses of worship throughout the country. The Swedenborgian Church built in 1895 in the Pacific Heights neighborhood of San Francisco, is regarded as one of California’s earliest pure Bungalow/Arts and Crafts buildings. The first pastor of the church, the Reverend Joseph Worcester, bought the land and worked with the architects: A. Page Brown, A. C. Schweinfurth, and Bernard Maybeck to design the church.

For their second California masterpiece, Wayfarer’s Chapel on the Palos Verdes Peninsula site at Portuguese Bend, the Swedenborgians commissioned architect Lloyd Wright. He was chosen for his experience and reputation throughout Southern California for creating architecture that exemplified the new modernistic theories of simplicity and elegance, integration with the site, garden design, and use of natural materials.

Published in July, 1957 in Arts & Architecture magazine, Wayfarers Chapel was the subject of this beautiful and poetic redesigned advertisement for the Great Lakes Carbon Corporation, which features Lloyd Wright’s signature use of Palos Verdes Stone on the soaring spire and throughout the grounds.

Palos Verdes Stone was employed by leading architects including Lloyd Wright throughout the Palos Verdes Peninsula for its range of soft neutral colors, and distinctive textures. Each installation of Palos Verdes Stone is unique giving its own individual charm and distinction, which has become the architectural hallmark of Wayfarers Chapel. The ad copy states:

stone … distinctive Palos Verdes stone … speaks in its very nature of that which endures. Whether your church design be modern or traditional, the distinctive textures and soft neutral colors of Palos Verdes Stone … off-white, grey, buff .. . give perfect expression to your proudest designs for buttress, wall or soaring spire .. . always with the lasting dignity befitting a religious edifice.

A Dream Comes True
Wayfarers Chapel began as a dream in the mind of Elizabeth Schellenberg, a Swedenborgian who lived on the Palos Verdes Peninsula in the late 1920s. The Peninsula was largely open farmland subject to unstable land movement. A two-lane gravel road hugging the shoreline connected San Pedro to Palos Verdes Estates slightly to the north. Mrs. Schellenberg dreamed of a little chapel on a hillside above the Pacific Ocean where wayfarers could stop to rest, meditate and give thanks to God for the wonder and beauty of creation.

Narcissa Cox Vanderlip, also a member of the Swedenborgian Church, responded to the dream and agreed to contribute land for the chapel site. The Vanderlips owned most of the Peninsula in the early 20th century before it was sold to Great Lakes Carbon Corporation. She invited architect Ralph Jester to draw up plans for the chapel. The 1930s Depression and World War II forced a delay in developing the plans. Following the war, Mr. Jester urged his friend Lloyd Wright, son of the renowned American architectural pioneer Frank Lloyd Wright, to apply his own formidable talent to the project.

Lloyd Wright found himself in complete accord with the positive outlook of the Swedenborgian Church with its emphasis on harmony between God’s natural world and the inner world of mind and spirit.

Lloyd Wright’s design is one of the foremost examples of organic architecture. One of its underlying principles is that the trees are the forms and the space within the forms is sacred space. Wright had been inspired by the cathedral-like majesty of the redwood trees in northern California. He therefore had an embracing grove of Redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) planted to achieve his vision. The redwood trees that surround the Chapel form living walls and roof. The site planning and planting design express his talent and experience as a landscape architect.

When the Chapel was dedicated in 1951 it stood alone, glistening in the unbridled sun on a deserted dusty knoll overlooking the Pacific blue. It soon came to be known as “the Glass Church” after its most prominent architectural feature. The building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

“I wanted particularly to allow those trees and those trunks to be seen and the space beyond and into infinity to be observed, so those who sat in the sanctuary would perceive the grandeur of space out beyond and around them.”
—Lloyd Wright