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La Floridiana by Will Moriaty    Now in our eleventh calendar year
    PCR #549  (Vol. 11, No. 40)  This edition is for the week of September 27--October 3, 2010.

"Let Me In"  by Mike Smith
"The Social Network" by Mike Smith
The Fabulous Architecture of the Tampa Bay Region, Part 13. The Works of John Randal McDonald, Part Two, The Church Building: Transcending the Material to the Spiritual  by William Moriaty
Forgotten Films: Stop, Look, and Laugh  by ED Tucker
September Album of the Month: Neil Young Le Noise  by Terence Nuzum
Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla (1974)  by Jason Fetters
Passing On .... Rock And Roll Honors .... How Much Money Can I Make From These Movies - Let's Find Out .... .... .... .... .... .... Mike's Record Shelf by Mike Smith

The Fabulous Architecture of the Tampa Bay Region, Part 13:

The Works of John Randal McDonald, Part Two, The Church Building: Transcending the Material to the Spiritual

Is a church a building that houses people participating in public religious services or is a church the practitioners themselves?

By both Biblical and secular accounts you would be correct on both counts.

Of the 17 definitions that Dictionary.com gives the word "church", the first three definitions are:

    1. "A building of public Christian worship."
    2. "Public worship of God or a religious service in such a building."
    3. "The whole body of Christian believers. Christendom."

Notice that definition number three does not assign a physical location or a building, but defines a church by its members. This definition finds concurrence with Matthew 18;20 where the Lord Jesus Christ states..."For where two or three gather together in my name, there I am in the midst of them..."(King James version).

A 1958 rendering by John Randal McDonald of the Clearwater Church of Christ to be built at 601 S. Hercules Avenue across from Clearwater High School.
This means that as long as two or three are gathered together in the name of Jesus Christ a religious service could be held anywhere...in a large or a small tent; outdoors under a tree; in an office building or a warehouse; in a plane, train or automobile.

But the sense of place of worship can not be stated strongly enough. For worship to be its most effective it typically demands enough quiet and tranquility necessary for the contemplative mind to be in communion with God in as unfettered, uninterrupted and free flowing a manner as possible. Therefore a small tent located in the hot blazing sun next to an Interstate highway may not go far in accomplishing this sense of sanctuary. Gathering under a tree may suit the purpose unless the ravages of nature or the unwanted or unnecessary intrusion of men render it being too difficult.

Without a doubt then, a building should in most instances provide the best shelter and sanctuary possible to aid the worshiper at a material level be their best at the religious or spiritual level. Are there elements in the design and construction of a church building that can maximize the effect of transcending from the material to the spiritual? I believe that there are, and I believe that the late modernist (from an architectural standpoint and not a religious standpoint) architect John Randal McDonald addressed this sense of place and purpose very eloquently in the November 14, 1958 edition of the Clearwater Sun when describing the Clearwater Church of Christ building he had recently designed:

A 1960 photo of the recently completed Clearwater Church of Christ building taken from across the street at Clearwater High School. if you compare this with the photo featured in last week's La Floridiana, taken in March 2010 by the author, you will notice that the water cascading spire feature has since been removed.
A close up of the building showing the 14" thick travertine limestone exterior/interior walls quarried from a mine in Bradenton, Florida, as well as the 70' tall waterfall spire or steeple composed of translucent mosaic panels. The present front doors of the building are made from the fiberglass of the removed steeple.
"As the attitude of prayer is of timelessness, so this church must be. The materials will be of nature with the site and building blending into one. The stone will rise up out of the earth and transcend upward..."

Like the Lord's people, a church building is in a sense also a vessel. A vessel that opposed to being animated is a fixed physical focal point that acts as a powerful tool in getting many facets of the Lord's work broadcast and accomplished on earth. A church building in itself is not a Holy entity to be deified or worshiped, which would constitute idolatry, but its man-made design and construction can go far in triggering the transcendental qualities mentioned above. When McDonald, in another Clearwater Sun news article, circa 1958-59, described his vision for the design of the Christ the King Lutheran Church in Indian Rocks he conceived of a...

"...great, strong building with rough, rugged materials denoting Christ the Strong, with symbols of the church used as a part of the building itself, an integration of symbolism so to speak. No bric-a-brac."

Regardless of the numerous church buildings that McDonald designed, he also had a clear understanding of the delineation between theology and architecture. In yet another Clearwater Sun news article, circa 1959 or 1960, that featured McDonald as well as Sarasota School of Architecture practitioner Victor Lundy, it was stated that...

"...Both (McDonald and Lundy) agree that the architect is seldom able to become a theologian and that the theologian is seldom able to specify the architectural implication of his own theological views. And both agree that most architects recognize some of the complications in sanctuary arrangements and symbolism."

A 1960 photo of the interior of the building with its original roof which consisted of gold metallic cloth embedded within laminated fiberglass panels interlocking over wooden support beams.
What Architectural Elements Made McDonald's Clearwater Church of Christ Building Bold and Unique?

When John Randal McDonald envisioned the Clearwater Church of Christ building in 1958 the "Architect's Idea of New Church' were described in the November 14, 1958 edition of the Clearwater Sun as follows:

"...Sparkling water will cascade down colored translucent mosaic panels rising 70 feet (other articles stated 80 feet- Will) from its base of native stone and reflecting pools to its hooded mantle of gold.

The roof is to be a great mantle, spreading out beyond the hooded spire and hovering protectively over the nave (the area where the congregation sits -- Will). As a mantle, the roof is to be of a gold metallic cloth embedded with diamond shaped laminated fiber glass panels interlocked over a supporting structure of great wooden beams.

The sunlight of daytime will filter through the metallic cloth mantle to create within the nave and sanctuary a soft golden radiance. At night, interior lighting will radiate a luminous glow outward."

McDonald's own words ended the article with the following:

"...As sunlight on moving water casts dancing patterns, so shall the sun shafts passing through the water send a soft galaxy of colored light patterns within the nave. The church will become alive and aware of its purpose and its people."

Designed By: John Randal McDonald, A.I.A. of Racine, Wisconsin and Indian Rocks Beach, Florida (other accounts say Clearwater, Florida)
General Contractor: Harold H. Young, Clearwater, Florida
Laminated Gold Metallic Fiberglass Roof and Translucent Spire Fabrication: Herbert Jones, Co., Miami, Florida
Laminated Wood Roof Support Beams: Unit Structures, inc. of West Palm Beach, Florida
Seating Capacity: 450 people
Total Cost (in 1958 dollars): $104,288.00 (other accounts say $120,000.00)
Interior and Exterior Walls: 400 tons of Travertene limestone quarried from Bradenton, Florida
Construction Began: Accounts vary -- As early as November 1958 or as late as 1959
Construction Completed: February 1960
First Service Held: 3:30 P.M. Sunday February 7, 1960, with Brother Harry Pickup conducting evangelist services at 7:30 P.M. that night.
Current Building Age: 50 years, 8 months

To comment on this or any other PCR article, please visit The Message Board. "La Floridiana" is ©2010 by William Moriaty.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2010 by Nolan B. Canova.