Bethlehem Baptist Church | Los Angeles Conservancy
Photo by Brendan Ravenhill, copyright 2014

Bethlehem Baptist Church

Master architect Rudolph Schindler was one of the early pioneers of Modernism and designed hundreds of residential projects throughout Los Angeles. He also designed exactly one church, the Bethlehem Baptist Church, which is notable both as Schindler’s only ecclesiastical design and as one of very few examples of intact Modern architecture in South Los Angeles.

The church was completed in 1944, at the height of Schindler’s career. It is currently the home of Faith Build International. It's white stucco exterior shows no sign of its original color scheme; a mulberry-gray exterior deepening to a rosy-violet and deep plum interior. Yet there is no denying the complex horizontal planes and minimalist, cross-shaped tower that still identify the building as an imaginative and groundbreaking work.

Schindler used overlapping volumes to create a series of open spaces, bursting open the typical box design that would usually occupy a small lot and even providing a roof terrace to be used as an outdoor stage.

Bethlehem Baptist Church served as a community center as well as a worship space for its small African American congregation, embodying Schindler’s philosophy that a well-designed building could shape space, light, and accessibility in positive ways, despite a modest budget. 

The Bethlehem Baptist congregation sold the building in 1975, and for the years the building was empty. It had become deteriorated and was covered with grafitti, until recently the congregation of Faith-Build International revived the long-dormant church. The building is open to the public for Sunday services, every Sunday at 11AM. Everyone is welcome.

Learn more from an April 2014 segment from KCRW's DnA

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