University Lutheran Church

Arland A. Dirlam, 1951

Harleston Parker Medal, 1952

This church’s thoughtfully sculpted brick volumes define an intimate entry court and make the most of a tiny site near Harvard Square. The entry, tower, nave and social space are simply but elegantly detailed in ways that bridge between tradition, and the growing postwar shift towards abstraction. The play of horizontals off of verticals, and deep recesses off of taut masonry surfaces give the forms an evocative power, while the red brick knits them into the back street context and suggests a sense of humility.

The church remains an active congregation and opens its doors as a homeless shelter in winter months. Its court is now filled with ramps to the lower level – a necessary accommodation, but not without its tradeoffs.

Said to be the first church built in Cambridge after WWII, it is also one of the last, along with Saarinen's Chapel at MIT that followed a few years later. Local architect Arland Dirlam was a Tufts and Harvard GSD alumnus, and designed a number of buildings on the Tufts campus in Medford.

Images: ©Yonward