Louis Kahn: First Unitarian Church/Ineffable Space

Alberti is explicit about the character of the ideal church. It should be the noblest ornament of a city and its beauty should surpass imagination. It is this staggering beauty which awakens sublime sensations and arouses piety in the people. It has a purifying effect and produces the state of innocence which is pleasing to God.


For the struggle to express the inexpressible—to create what Le Corbusier called, in reference to his great chapel at Ronchamp, France, “ineffable space”—is one that has yielded few successful results in our time or in any other. The extraordinary balance between the rational and the irrational that characterizes Ronchamp, or Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple in Oak Park, Ill., or Louis Kahn’s Unitarian Church in Rochester, N.Y., or Bernard Maybeck’s Christian Science Church in Berkeley, Calif., to name four of the greatest religious structures of this century, is not something that can be made by formula, and it is not something that can be dictated by style.

Paul Goldberger

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