The Saint Theresa Catholic Church, completed in 1968 by American architect William F. Cody is considered one of the architect’s masterworks. Cody was an enthusiastic parishioner of the church and reportedly expended much time and creative effort on the commission. The church is in remarkably original condition, and many of the interior elements designed by Cody remain intact.
Saint Theresa Catholic Church Technical Information
- Architects1-2: William Francis Cody
- Location: 2800 E. Ramon Road., Palms Springs, USA
- Topics: Palm Springs, Expressionism
- Project Year: 1966-1968
- Photographs: © ArchEyes
The reason for focusing on the organic rather than the geometric was to produce an architecture of motion and emotion, ambiance, radicalism, and sweeping change. This encouraged expression of subjective interpretation rather than the reproduction of aesthetically pleasing subject matter. The loss of design restraints implied an inevitable dismantling of the immediate past.
– Adrian Sheppard3
St. Theresa Catholic Church Photographs
Text extracted from the Project portfolio4
The problem as presented was to design and construct a church for St. Theresa Parish with a seeing capacity of nine hundred, emphasizing the recent revisions in the Catholic liturgy and conformance to the Ecumenical directions Council.
The cruciform arrangement of the plan provides easy access to the adjacent parking areas and is surrounded by a curved gunited concrete wall. This wall provides exterior court areas in four locations dedicated for use of shrines.
The baptistry is placed adjacent to the Narthex, at the main entrance, recessed two steps below the floor level, enclosed with a glass and iron screen wall and railing. A narrow skylight is located at the center of the curved roof overhead, thus providing natural illumination. Clearstory glass is placed at each side and fitted to the curved roof contour to supplement the light intensity.
The materials selected reflected the desire of the Architect to provide a durable and permanent structure, easy to maintain, and consistent with the physical sensitivities of the desert environment, within the confines of low-budget requirements.
The exterior gunited concrete wall is covered with an integral color plaster and broom finished. Other exterior walls of the structure are built with concrete blocks, poured solid, with plaster cover, except the exterior sidewalls of the chapels, which are insulated wood frame construction.
The roof supporting structure is glulam post and beam construction, using exposed wood roof planking, wire-brushed for texture. A precast Zono-lite concrete roofing material is applied to all sloping roof areas. All statuary and Stations of the Cross are hand-carved wood. Altars was constructed of slabs of Travertine marble.
All interior furniture such as pews, altars, baptismal font, and all other religious features were designed by the Architect. The Main Altar of Sacrifice is placed in the center of the curved high roof portion of the church, penetrated at the top by a skylight. The supporting ridge beams converge above this point to support the iron Celtic Cross. The plastered wall surfaces, inside and out are all white. The roof planking and supporting members of the building are colored variour shades of dark to light brown.
The St. Theresa Catholic Church is an example of Palms Springs Expresionist Architecture during the 1960´s. Expressionism repudiated modern rationalism and emphasized abstraction of form to symbolically express a subjective interpretation of inner experience.
Forms were frequently inspired by natural phenomena, including caves, crystals, rocks, and other organic, non-geometric forms to produce “an architecture of motion and emotion, ambiance, radicalism, and sweeping change.”3 Innovative building materials such as concrete, plastics, and laminates are often incorporated in the design to achieve artistic forms.
St. Theresa Catholic Church Plans
St. Theresa Catholic Church Image Gallery
About William Francis Cody
William Francis Cody, FAIA (1916-1978) was an influential Desert Modern architect who practiced in Palm Springs at the peak of the Modernist movement. Between 1946 and 1973, Cody maintained a diverse practice in California’s Coachella Valley, designing country clubs, residences, hotels, library, and church projects in the local communities of Palm Springs, Indian Wells, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, and southern California, Arizona, Mexico, and Cuba.
On 19 June 1916 in Dayton, Ohio, Cody was born to William F. Cody, Sr., who owned a haberdashery, and Anna Elizabeth Shadle, an interior designer. Cody and his brother John were both influenced by their mother’s passion for art and architecture.
Among his clients were Walt Disney, Bing Crosby, and Frank Sinatra. He would become one of the most prolific and influential exponents of desert modern architecture in its halcyon days.
- Structural Engineer: William Porush
- Mechanical Engineers: Tharaldson, Matthewson, Argabright & Doby
- The return of Expressionism and the Architecture of Luigi Moretti, Adrian Sheppard, FRAIC, McGill University,
- Saint Theresa Catholic Church project portfolio, William F. Cody Papers, Kennedy Library Online Archive, California Polytechnic State University
- Master of the Midcentury: The Architecture of William F. Cody (THE MONACELLI P) Hardcover – September 7, 2021 by Catherine Cody (Author), Jo Lauria (Author), Don Choi (Author), Wim De Wit (Foreword)