St. John's Lutheran Church, Bundaberg

St John's Lutheran Church, Bundaberg, Queesland

Whilst driving across east-coast Australia during last year's road-trip, i slammed on the brakes at the sight of this modernist beauty, nearly sending the contents of our van through the windscreen.

Now, I'm not a religious kinda guy, but places of worship and faith (new and old) do fascinate me. This specimen, that is St John's Lutheran Church in Bundaberg, Queensland Australia, is something of a real find - featuring three of my favourite things: design, typography and brutalist / modernist architecture. Add in the fact it is located in Ginger Beer country (yep, the same Bundaberg as the soft drink variety which is brewed here, makes this an all-round win!

Dr Karl Langer / Architect

Dr Karl Langer / Architect

Built in 1960, was designed by architect Dr Karl Langer and built by J. Hutchinson and sons and is the primary Lutheran church for the Bundaberg community. It is used regularly by the congregation and the adjacent Lutheran school.

A bit more about Dr Langer(wiki)

Langer (1903–1969) was born on 28 July 1903 in Vienna, Austria. He studied at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts under the directorship of German Modernist designer Peter Behrens and in 1928, the year of his graduation, Langer was employed by Behrens to run his office in Vienna. In 1933 Langer was awarded a Doctor of Philosophy for his thesis entitled "Origins and Development of Concrete Construction".[1]

Langer immigrated to Australia with his wife, Dr Gertrude Langer, in 1939 bringing direct experience of the European Modern Movement to Queensland. He gained temporary employment with architects Cook and Kerrison in Brisbane and from 1940 lectured part-time in architecture and architectural design at the University of Queensland, publishing Sub-Tropical Housing in 1944. This booklet explored issues related to house design and town planning in a sub-tropical climate and influenced many architects working in the post-WWII era.[1][11]

In 1944 Langer was employed as an assistant town planner in the Brisbane City Council. From 1945, he was commissioned to work on a range of town planning projects for Darwin, Ingham, Toowoomba, Yeppoon, Kingaroy, Mount Isa, Mackay and for the National Capital Development Commission in Canberra. Concurrently, he completed numerous architectural projects of a wide variety including small, economical domestic work and large commercial and institutional work.[1]  

Influenced by the architecture of Ancient Greece and the Modernist ideas of contemporary European architecture, Langer developed a sophisticated hybrid of ancient and modern principles of design bridging modern and traditional architecture.[14] Typically, Langer explored the idea of the conjunction of landscape and landmark and his designs often involve a designed landscape incorporating the building. At St John's, Langer proposed a building with a simplified traditional form consisting of a box-like church with a very tall spire set back from the street by a plaza with reflecting pool, palms and colonnade. 

Langer's exploration of Modernism was heavily influenced by context. He studied the local fauna and flora in Queensland and the climate. His work interprets this information in a Modernist manner. He typically exploited passive lighting and ventilation in uncomplicated ways; at St John's his design includes simple methods of passive ventilation and a naturally lit interior.[1]

(You can read more on Wikipedia)

Apparently the design wanted to make the front of the building like an open bible, with the words inviting people in and being legible from a distance. Lutheranism places more emphasis on the bible (more than other forms of christianity) and the larger letters apparently 'represented the authority of the scripture'. You can certainly see Langer's modernist vision bringing together a design with context, location & landmark and striking simplicity.

Reading deeper in to Dr Karl Langer's legacy, this was something that he repeated throughout his arrival in Australia in 1939. Apparently, he worked throughout Australia and was the initiator of many influential urban design ideas which includued the Sydney Opera House.

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