Columbus Architecture: North Christian Church

The North Christian Church is the third collaboration in town amongst architect Eero Saarinen, textile artist Alexander Girard and landscape designer Dan Kiley.

church spire with blue sky and clouds

Photo: Annie Corrigan/WFIU

The spire on the North Christian Church reaches 192 feet in the air.

One Man Benefiting His Community

The story of architecture in Columbus, Indiana seems to always come back to industrialist and philanthropist J. Irwin Miller, whose Cummins Foundation is credited with helping promote architectural development in the city.

His home, which has recently been opened to the public, was designated a National Historic Landmark. The same can be said for the downtown branch of the bank he founded, formally Irwin Union Bank (now First Financial Bank). He was also influential in commissioning the first modernist building in the city, the First Christian Church.

It’s fitting, then, that the final installment of Artworks tour of the Columbus architecture series ends at the church Miller attended, the same church that also hosted his funeral: the North Christian Church.

Beauty On The Outside

The church is the third example of collaboration amongst architect Eero Saarinen, textile artist Alexander Girard, and landscape designer Dan Kiley. (The others? The Miller Home and Gardens, and the downtown branch of the former Irwin Union Bank).

It also happens to be the final building designed by Saarinen before his death in 1961.

The most striking feature of the hexagonal building is its 192 foot tall spire. Cindy Frey, Associate Director of the Columbus Area Visitors Center, says if it were a mere eight feet taller, it would have had to include a blinking light on top to alert passing air crafts.

church sanctuary with cross and platform with steps

Photo: Annie Corrigan/WFIU

The sanctuary is arranged in a round and seats 650 people.

Beauty On The Inside

The shape of the building is reflected on the inside of the church. It also comes back in the sanctuary, which seats 650 people, arranged in the round, with the altar in the middle.

“It’s a very womb-like space,” says Frey.

As with the Miller Home, the cushions that line the seats in the front row have interchangeable covers. Depending on the liturgical calendar, they can be green or they can be purple.

Annie Corrigan

Annie Corrigan is a producer and announcer for WFIU. In addition to serving as the local voice for NPR's Morning Edition, she produces WFIU's weekly sustainable food program Earth Eats. She earned degrees in oboe performance from Indiana University and Bowling Green State University.

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