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Church Architecture

This article was submitted by architect Robert J. Schultz, A.I.A., of Montana and Schultz Architects, for publication in the June 1958 dedication issue of Little Flower's newsletter, Party Line.

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Site Considerations Determined the Orientation of the Church.

The natural slope, a full story in height, allowed the meeting hall in the basement to be designed with full height windows to the southeast, creating a hall without the usual basement impression. The nave of the church then has its main entrance to the north at grade level, giving easy access. At the southeast corner, a lower entrance from the parking lot leads directly up a flight of stairs to the nave. Ascending those stairs, the first impression is of soaring height as one looks up to the peak of the wood arches, or to the prow-shaped window of the baptistry rising from the floor to the highest point of the roof.

Behind the main altar is a triangular screen of tile, symbolic of the Trinity, which encloses the sacristies and, at the upper level, the organ chamber. This screen is built of a single type of structural clay tile laid in several different positions, so as to create an irregular overall pattern. At several places in the screen the tile were laid in cross fashion, and the faces gold-leafed to catch a sparkle of light from the skylight at the high point of the roof directly over the main altar. A large crucifix will be placed approximately in the center of the screen.

The large laminated wood arches supporting the four-inch timber deck over the nave are dissymmetrical in shape, having a boomerang shaped leg to the north side, so as to eliminate any columns in the sight line between the side chapel and the main altar. The arches and wood deck are finished in their natural color consistent with the simple, honest expression of natural materials used throughout the church.
Lighting fixtures are small and numerous, spread over a large area for more even distribution of light, and to prevent large important units from becoming features in themselves and distracting from the concentration of a single effect at the main altar. These fixtures are suspended higher and higher as they approach the altar to increase the feeling of elevation and to remove them farther from the sight lines.
Both the main and the side altar will be of polished limestone designed as simple tables in accordance with the liturgy. The floors of the sanctuary and baptistry will be of natural slate.

Along the south wall of the nave, above the side aisle, Robert Leader will paint the Stations of the Cross in a continuous band starting at the rear and culminating at the altar. The life of the Little Flower will eventually be done in mosaics along the sloping wall beneath the narrow band of windows on the south side of the nave. Windows at both sides of the nave were purposely kept small and partially hidden in order to prevent distracting glare when facing the main altar.

The bell tower consists of two legs rising to a height above the ridge lines of the nave, surmounted by a large aluminum cross and a simple canopy, leaving the bell exposed to view.

The exterior materials are rough textured, buff colored brick and light green slate on the long sweeping lines of the steeply pitched roof. The base on which the church sets at the east end is of concrete which was sandblasted to expose the stone aggregate.

The general concept of the design was to suggest simplicity and solidity, exposing the structural materials, and using textured surfaces for decoration, with no sham or pretentiousness, limiting the use of finer and richer materials to the liturgical focal points of the altar and baptistry.