Wayfarers Chapel by Lloyd Wright to Be Disassembled Due to Landslide Risk

Wayfarers Chapel, designed by Lloyd Wright in the Palos Verdes Peninsula, is set for disassembly due to landslide risks. The chapel, known for its integration with nature through large glass panels, has been closed to the public since February due to accelerated geological movement. The Portuguese Bend area’s landslide, the largest and fastest-moving in the U.S., has caused significant structural damage to the chapel. Collaborating with Architectural Resources Group, stewards document and preserve original materials for possible future reconstruction. The preservation effort is urgent as the unique materials, such as old-growth redwood and steel window networks, cannot be replicated today.

Wayfarers chapel by lloyd wright to be disassembled due to landslide risk

The Wayfarers Chapel, also known as “The Glass Church,” was designed by Lloyd Wright, son of Frank Lloyd Wright, and completed in 1951. Located on the Palos Verdes Peninsula in Los Angeles, the chapel’s design integrates architecture and nature, featuring large glass panels that blend with the surrounding redwood canopies. Despite being designated a national historic landmark last year, the chapel will be disassembled due to the risk of landslide-induced damage. The structure has been closed to the public since February.

The Palos Verdes Peninsula is experiencing accelerated geological movement in an area shaped by a dormant landslide complex reactivated over fifty years ago. This ongoing landslide, particularly in the Portuguese Bend area, is now the largest and fastest-moving in the United States. The recent acceleration of this geological activity threatens significant areas, including the Wayfarers Chapel.

Wayfarers chapel by lloyd wright to be disassembled due to landslide risk

Damage to the chapel includes warped metal framing, fractured glass panels, inoperable doors, cracked concrete floors, and a damaged cornerstone. The stewards of the chapel have noted the increasing severity of these damages, making preservation efforts increasingly challenging.

Its stewards are working with the Architectural Resources Group (ARG) to safeguard the chapel and deconstruct and preserve as many original materials as possible. Each piece is meticulously cataloged and documented. Immediate disassembly has been deemed the safest and most viable option. The team is also considering options for reconstruction either on the same site or nearby.

Many original materials in the Lloyd Wright design, such as old-growth redwood glulam, blue roof tiles, and the intricate steel network, cannot be replicated today. The principal of ARG, Katie Horak, emphasizes the urgency of documenting and moving these materials to safety to facilitate future reconstruction.

Wayfarers chapel by lloyd wright to be disassembled due to landslide risk

The Wayfarers Chapel was not designed for disassembly, making its reconstruction particularly challenging. While historic structures have been demolished and rebuilt before, this case is unique due to the preservation of original materials. The structure is thoroughly documented before disassembly. Globally, similar efforts are underway to preserve structures from the last century, balancing their historical significance with functional needs that sometimes necessitate demolition and redevelopment.

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