Beth Sholom Synagogue
Elkins Park, Pennsylvania (built 1954)
The Beth Sholom Synagogue in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania is the only synagogue designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It is one of the relatively few projects of his in Pennsylvania, and one of the last that he personally worked on. In a portfolio of unique designs this was one of the most distinctive. Its iconic feature is the pyramid-like roof, which incorporates elements reminiscent of Mesoamerican and Asian architectural styles.
Beth Sholom incorporates many symbolic elements, such as the beige floor which is designed to evoke images of the Exodus in the desert. The roof is designed translucently to allow in light during the day and to make the building seem to glow at night. The synagogue has been cited for its expressiveness, the most so for any of the houses of worship he designed.
Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church
Milwaukee, Wisconsin (built 1962)
The Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Milwaukee was one of the very last designs the Frank Lloyd Wright completed and one of the very last to be completed, being finished three years after his death. It is considered to be one of Wright’s crowning achievements. The church is an out of this world structure, as it literally resembles a classic saucer-shaped unidentified flying object.
The definitive element of the church is the massive blue-domed roof which spans the entire structure and is crowned by a cross. Interestingly, this church subsequently became an inspiration for modern mosque architecture, many of which were constructed in the latter half of the 20th century. Also of note is the magnificent iconography, some of the best in a modern church in the United States.
Rancho Palos Verdes, California (built 1951)
The Wayfarer’s Chapel in Southern California is one of America’s most beautiful churches, and one often incorrectly attributed to Frank Lloyd Wright. This masterpiece was in fact designed by Lloyd Wright, his son, and many devotees consider it to be on par with any of the father’s religious designs. Wayfarer’s Chapel is generally considered to be Lloyd Wright’s seminal work.
The chapel, also known as the glass church, consists of a wooden superstructure faced almost completely in glass. This was specifically designed to draw in as much of the natural surrounding as possible (Lloyd Wright was also an accomplished landscape architect). Combining the towering Redwood trees that were planted to frame the chapel with the magnificent view of the Pacific, Wayfarer’s Chapel is a definite contender for the most beautiful small church in the United States.