Saint Peter’s Church, a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, sits in the heart of Midtown Manhattan. Today it is a thriving community, yet in the late 1960s, a century after its founding, Saint Peter’s faced many of the challenges affecting other mainline churches in the city. The congregation was dwindling and the building suffered neglect. Worse still, the city was in financial crisis and the middle class was moving to the suburbs. Many churches decided to close and follow the exodus out of the city. It seemed Saint Peter’s was destined for the same.
Instead of fleeing, the people of Saint Peter’s chose to stay. In 1970, they authorized the demolition of their old building and began planning for an improved facility on the same site, the intersection of Lexington Avenue and 54th Street.
This new building’s architecture would be radically different from the Gothic style of the previous church. It would be contemporary and welcoming of all people, a perfect new beginning for the congregation. Designers and artists were consulted and engaged. The building would be decidedly modernist, a vibrant space with open areas full of light, and composed of elegant forms and materials. It would also include a chapel where people of any creed could sit peacefully and meditate in a quiet space amidst an otherwise frenzied New York City.