The Slutty Eye: Blunt Faith

Seattle is rich in funny-looking churches. The façade of the Holy Protection of the Theotokos Orthodox Church (564 N.E. Ravenna Blvd.) is a riot of wooden slats in beige and turquoise. St. Paul's Episcopal (15 Roy St.) has a zigzagging roof pitched at such an extreme angle it could pass as a novelty building at an amusement park. But the greatest funny-looking church of them all is Seattle First Presbyterian, a 1970 fortress rising above I-5 traffic on the western slope of First Hill. "Brutalism, that's really what they call it," laughs First Presbyterian Executive Director Tim Newton of the school of severe Modernism that resulted in countless concrete boxes in the '60s and '70s, especially on university campuses. It could be the least-loved of all architectural styles, but there's something stirring and grand—almost Egyptian—about the simple shapes and rough textures of the sanctuary and church tower. The appeal is largely lost on the congregation that has to actually live with these structures. "The design flies in the face of our mission to be engaged with the city," says Newton. "People can't even tell where the door is!" Not for long, though. The congregation and church higher-ups have approved a plan to eventually (no date has been named) level the concrete and replace it with more practical church buildings that will be integrated with—you guessed it—a mixed-use high-rise. 

 
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