d o c o m o m o l o u i s i a n a is a regional chapter of an international committee dedicated to the

documentation and conservation of the buildings, sites and neighborhoods of the modern movement

Thursday, February 3, 2011

St. Pius X Catholic Church (1966)

In 1994 Tulane School of Architecture sponsored a tour, "The International Style in New Orleans" which featured six modern buildings designed by alumni and faculty in New Orleans: Nathaniel C. Curtis, Jr., Arthur Q. Davis, John Lawrence, James Lamantia, Albert C. Ledner, and August Perez, Jr. This is the third of six posts in a series.

St. Pius X Catholic Church
St. Pius X Catholic Church
6666 Spanish Fort Blvd.
Architects: Burk & Lamantia Architects, Inc.
Designing Architect: James Lamantia

Designed in 1963 and dedicated in 1966, this church is noted for its striking roof, rising in orchestrated planes from almost ground level to more than 75 feet above the church floor. The three lower vaults follow the aisles to entrances, and the two massive vaults shelter the seating areas. To create a feeling of space without too much height, the architects used low walls that support the enormous roof, creating a vortex of space that surges upwards.
The selection of materials was important in creating an elaborate structure on a modest budget. The roof is of Terne, carbon steel coated with tin and lead. the confessionals and organ chamber are walnut-faced plywood, and the pews are of red oak; both were designed for this church. The infrastructure is of reinforced concrete resting on the piers flanking the entrances, with precast concrete panels forming the walls.
Interior decoration is sparse. The doors, of simple narrow vertical panels, are of bronze over a hollow core. The architects specified the shape of the central altar, but details of its construction are unknown. Blueprints called for a tall, simple railing to surround the baptistry at the back of the church. The Stations of the Cross, by Dom Gregory Dewitt, were added after the dedication.
Stained glass windows incorporating geometric shapes, with red and blue dominating in the wall windows and yellow in the steeple window. The latter faces north so that the light is neutral and cool. The windows were probably produced by the Emil Frei studio in St. Louis.

The International Style in New Orleans, Tulane School of Architecture, 1994, copy by Patty Andrews
photo: Lauren Polhamus

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