Vatican II (1962) was a godsend to Brutalism. The Roman Catholic Church promoted its newfound modernity and progressiveness in forward-looking buildings, generously entrusting young and hungry architects with a carte blanche.
And no diocese built more cutting-edge béton-brut homes for God than the Swiss Roman Catholic Church. Its architect of choice was Walter Maria Förderer. Johanneskirche in Lucerne is his second sacral building. A trained sculptor, Förderer cut his teeth interning with Hermann Baur, a renowned architect in Basel. Unbothered by conventional architecture, he concentrated on mastering the art of creating sculptures fit for modern habitation. Johanneskirche church is no exception: the ensemble of interlocking polygonal shapes and square cut-outs comprises a chapel, rectory, accommodation and a school. It certainly cuts a striking figure, but as the church sits relatively squat, it manages to blend in neatly with its residential surroundings.
But it is the interior that has disciples of Brutalism drop to their knees
Picture the collision of a detonated Swiss WW2 alpine bunker and Kurt Schwitter’s Merzbau. Then, throw in a good measure of New Gothic’s bombast. The colossal concrete grotto was not only shockingly new, it amounted to an egregious act of heresy. At least in the eyes of the architectural critics. Förderer clearly didn’t care to save a prayer for the scathing critics and modernist purists who strictly rejected everything individual, decorative and eccentric. The Church gave its blessing.