A while back I scored a box full of back issues of The Improvement Era (the official magazine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1897 to 1970), including almost every issue from 1950-1970.
As you might expect, it is a treasure trove of mid-century design awesomeness, and the April 1959 issue, with its full-color insert highlighting contemporary church architecture, is especially sweet.
The Lord’s House
Throughout the length and breadth of the United States — and in many other countries throughout the world — the Church is constructing new, beautiful, modern, and functional meetinghouses in order to meet the housing requirements of a rapidly growing membership.
Tabulations show that at this writing there are in use 1,718 meetinghouses in wards and stakes, 429 in missions in the United States and Canada, and 451 in foreign missions, or a total of 2,598 meetinghouses completed and dedicated.
[Note: 50 years later, in 2009, the number of LDS meetinghouses topped 17,000 worldwide.]
On these pages, in full color and in black and white, are reproduced architects’ drawings and photographs of buildings planned, now under construction, or recently completed.
The picture changes virtually every day, and new chapels are being started while others are being dedicated each week, but as we go to press 238 meetinghouses are reported under construction in the wards and stakes, and another 303 have been approved and are in the designing stages. In the branches and missions 191 chapels are under construction and approval has been granted and plans are being drawn for an additional 213. This makes a total of 945 meetinghouses that have been approved and are currently in some stage of planning or building. These figures do not include other projects such as educational and welfare buildings, hospitals, temples, bureaus of information, or mission homes.
Although our Church houses are built mainly for worship, because of the widely diversified program of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they contain not only a chapel and classrooms, but also offices, recreation halls, Junior Sunday School rooms, kitchens, libraries, dressing and shower rooms, and other facilities. It is a standard practice to place a lounge area with double folding doors between the chapel and recreational hall, so as to cushion the noises. Many of our meetinghouses are designed so as to provide up to twenty-six teaching areas.
Architects are not regimented, as these pictures show, but are encouraged to use their originality to design buildings which, while meeting the requirements of a ward or branch, still harmonize with the terrain and general trend of architecture in a country or an area.
New materials and modern construction methods are constantly being employed in order to keep costs down and at the same time assure quality buildings and guarantee full value for money expended.
There is no end in sight. With the Church growing at an accelerated rate, occasioned both by baptisms of children and an increasing number of converts, the need for additional facilities is likely to continue to increase.