The jurors for the very first P/A Awards program shared a 1950s era urge to move past the International Style’s universally applicable design concepts toward an architecture more closely related to place. They praised the Chapel of the Holy Cross as “more location than architecture, which is as it should be.” And they endorsed the use of the “symbolic cross” as an “important structural element,” which could have seemed a coarse gesture in a less-sensitive design.
The chapel’s site is undeniably unique. And its program was hardly ordinary, the product of a decades-long effort by the donor, Marguerite Brunswig Staude, to create a Roman Catholic devotional chapel. After considering sites in California and Hungary, she spotted this desert setting during a flight over the Sedona, Ariz., area. Her chosen designer for such a project had been Lloyd Wright—son of Frank Lloyd Wright and architect of the 1951 Wayfarers Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. When he declined, she turned to Anshen + Allen of San Francisco (acquired by Stantec in 2010), which clearly rose to the challenge.
Completed in 1957, the chapel remains unaltered and has required only routine maintenance. Rising from a cleft between two mounds of red rock, it continues to attract a steady stream of the faithful, as well as admiring tourists. From its austere interior, an expanse of the area’s awe-inspiring landscape can be seen beyond the commanding cross. While the building represents the aspirations of its time, it is, in a larger sense, timeless.
Citation 1954 P/A Awards Jury:Victor Gruen, George Howe, Eero Saarinen, Fred N. Severud
Note: Architect, Darrell James was employed by Anshen + Allen 1973-76