Thank you for forwarding the link! I found the church very fascinating - both from a structural engineering standpoint, and from an architectural standpoint. Structurally, it’s a clever use of steel to achieve the desired effects of transparency and mystery. With the sculpture placed in the setting of a picturesque countryside, and the idea that people are to see through the church and see the beauty of nature beyond it, makes me think that the architects were making several important statements. For those who believe in such things, God is indeed transparent and mysterious, and if people see the sculpture strictly and entirely only in this way, I believe they are missing a broader interpretation of the work. The sculpture of the church as a symbol of God is a recognizable form, but with it being placed in this particular setting and built in this particular way, its function has been completely changed and reshaped to serve a counter purpose. To me, it is saying, look past the traditional church, with its established and predictable structures, and see nature and the world as it is beyond the opaque walls of the church. It is out there, not inside these four walls, but out there – that is where you will find your God. Inside the sculpture there is no alter or pews or chairs for the traditional gathering of people. It provides little protection from the elements, especially from the wind and cold. It is saying this structure cannot protect you; it is not meant for the traditional gathering of people within its walls. It is meant for you to question, how does it stand? Why did man build it in this way? For what purpose was it built?
If the entire history of the Earth were contained in one calendar year such that the beginning of our planet started at a fraction of a second past midnight onJanuary 1st, and we are now (365 days later) at 11:59:59 p.m. on December 31st, the entire history of mankind began at approximately 11:54 p.m.. Within this 6 minutes of time, the entire history of mankind (including prehistoric man) existed up to this present moment. According to this time scale, the first of the Egyptian Pyramids were built about 30 seconds ago, and Jesus Christ (the man for whom the church was built) lived and died only about 14 seconds ago.
Compared to all these things that are very difficult to understand, and inherently lead to questions with no easy answers, the structural engineering challenges of building the church are easy. The steel plates that were used are very strong and withstand the forces between the support points quite easily. Notice they used wide steel plates – other materials without the strength of steel would not have worked so effectively. The wide steel plates served two purposes - they provided the aesthetic quality of substance in the horizontal planes of the structure, and they provided the necessary stiffness with nominal depth requirements. By distributing the structure’s loads somewhat evenly throughout the walls (instead of at concentrated column locations as in traditional buildings), the forces at each of the small blocks between the plates were kept to a minimum. The lateral wind load effects were also minimized because the wind is able to blow through the walls, and the total weight of the steel structure itself keeps everything stable. It’s a very clever design structurally, and it’s very effective architecturally.
I definitely know this response was far more than you expected, but the link you sent really made me think about a few things. Good art, as you know so well, has a tendency to that.