In 1949 the Southwest Christian Seminary in Phoenix commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright (then 82 years of age) to design a Classical University that included along with other programmatic buildings a chapel. His drawings were finished and made public in 1950 but the Seminary, however, ceased its operations and the university was never built. Years later, Wright´s widow obtained permission to use the plans for a new First Christian Church which was completed in 1973.
First Christian Church Technical Information
- Architects: Frank Lloyd Wright
- Location: 6750 North Seventh Avenue, Phoenix, Arizona, United States
- Client: Peyton Canary
- Material: Concrete, Stone
- Typology: Religious Architecture / Church
- Design Year: 1950
- Completed in: 1972
- Drawings: © Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation
- Photographs: © ArchEyes
Form follows function, that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.
– Frank Lloyd Wright
First Christian Church in Phoenix Photographs
In the First Christian Church building, Frank Lloyd Wright uses the same materials that the Taliesin campus to echo the horizontality of the desert but in this case, however, two vertical elements are introduced: the tower and the steeple.
The bell tower was built in 1978 as a separate and free-standing 120-foot tower and completed with a 22-foot cross. Optical illusions were used to look like a triangular shape just like the church spire. The tower contains more than 300 tons of concrete, stone, and steel and has no inward-supporting structures being one of the most unique of Wright’s designs. The roof was built in foam and colored green to look like oxidized copper due to monetary constraints.
In the courtyard, concrete structures extend from the sanctuary into the yard. They suggest unfinished framing ruins or a concrete grove. The shape of those patterned, angled, supporting fins are repeated inside. To anybody familiar with Frank Henry’s Mushroom Bank, this strategy will seem familiar. These arcades are gratuitous but essential to the relationship of the building to its site and to the street.
The lost plans were transformed into a building that has become a local landmark and has been called “one of the 10 best church buildings ever built in America” by the Church Architects Guild of America. It’s certainly among Wright’s more unusual designs — and that’s saying a lot — and one that proved challenging to the phalanx of engineers hired to erect it.
The addition of the baptistery and choir loft, as well as the 1979 addition of an administrative wing, completed by Taliesin Architects, are the only modifications to the original design.