Thursday, March 6, 2008


In addition to three or four art shows, last weekend also saw the pinnacle of AIA Jacksonville’s lecture series, “Mid Century Modern: exploring mid-century modern architecture in Florida.” The event included a bus tour of some significant, and not-so-significant examples of modern architecture.

The highlight of the tour was a visit to the Unitarian Universalist Church designed by architect Bob Broward. As we filed into the space, and gazed upward through the skylights (a feature Broward used in other churches) with the warm scent of good intentions and dust in the air, Broward’s intent was clear: a simple, pared-down space that echoed elements of sacred grottos and pre-Christian spaces.

When Broward started to talk about the building, his face started to shine. He wasn’t just talking about ideas and formal construction, he was talking about a small community’s labor of love. A community he is a part of.

As he spoke, he looked around the main sanctuary, gesturing here and there, remembering buckets of concrete, touching the cypress timbers of the exposed gabling, and gesturing towards the overgrown pond saying, “when the church was originally built, it was reflected perfectly in the pond; like the Taj Mahal…you met it twice.”

Now, the pond is overgrown, full of lily pads and algae, it reflects nothing. The reason? Runof from nearby Arlington Expressway. The church has contacted the EPA for help with a clean-up...but its a slow process laments Broward.

Quiet and sincere, the church is as like the mega-churches scattered across Jacksonville, as ruins are like McMansions.

A space sanctified not by some overblown idea of a mighty God, but by the people it shelters.

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