This newly-built church in the eastern Jackson Township in Ohio is remarkably high-concept. Indeed, the Church of St. Aloysius is full of ideas: clearly informed by contemporary architecture, it also uses a number of theological references as influence for its unusual design.
Built in 2009, the design’s central theme relates to the notion of “re-pitching the tent”, an idea introduced by theologian Richard Giles in his 1999 book of the same name. In the book, Giles argued that the church needed to be more firmly rooted in the community.
Drawing on the historic role that churches played in a variety of community-building activities, he emphasised the need for modern churches to reorder themselves in order to facilitate activities besides conventional worship.
The design of the building quite literally evokes Giles’ ideas in its mimicking of the form of a fabric tent, based around the shape of a hyperbolic paraboloid. But it is also captured in the building’s circulation, featuring a seamless transition from the car park outdoors to the building’s centre, and one which is more than worthy of the best mid-century modern architecture; and likewise in the priority the design has placed on multi-purposes, namely, a school that was expanded as part of the project.
Besides being absolutely gorgeous to look at, the building’s remarkable roof also serves to subtly encourage visitors to feel welcome and at ease in the space. In this vein, Reverend Scott Shaffer of St. Aloysius, the person responsible for building the new church, described feeling “as if the roof is coming down, embracing you, and focusing your attention on the altar.”
Moving on from the building’s form, there is also a clear sustainable element to the design. This is mainly demonstrated by the fact that many of the materials used in the design were prefabricated and then quickly assembled on-site, adecision which drastically minimises on-site waste.
Considering all this, you might be surprised to find that the church was not met with instant praise. Shortly after it was built, the church attracted a number of nicknames, including “the flying wimple,” “the flying nun,” and “spaceship”. To be fair, it is indeed somewhat reminiscent of a winged nun’s habit.
But upon hearing of the design’s firm foundation in modern church practices, it has come to be seen as a vital and greatly appreciated pillar of the Jackson community.
Photos by Alan Schindler, Pixelcraft