The postwar suburban American church is a complicated subject. Religious buildings occupy a typological history largely driven by the interpretation of monuments, yet these churches tend instead toward a kind of mainstream vernacular. Their unassuming modernity challenges presumptions both of a heroic modernism overcoming tradition and of a conception of sacred space reliant on drama and transcendence. That they were built by congregations often newly formed as part of the postwar flight from cities makes relevant the many sources of contemporaneous and later criticism of suburban culture, from racial segregation to alienating sprawl to housewife drudgery and reactionary conformity in the face of a growing counterculture. Without a doubt, sociopolitical critique of suburban culture is part of the story, yet on its own it risks obscuring the actual experiences of those involved in designing, building, and using these places. The full story must engage both.

In The Suburban Church: Modernism...

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