The Architecture of Barry Byrne: Taking the Prairie School to Europe

posted May 27, 2015, 5:13 PM by Bill Marzella
A Lecture and Book Signing by Vincent L. Michael, PhD
Thursday, June 11, 2015


One of the first significant apprentices of Frank Lloyd Wright, Barry Byrne (1883–1967) was a radical architect who sought basic principles as fervently as his mentor Wright and his inspiration Louis Sullivan. From these roots he developed a design philosophy that began with the function of the building. He followed Wright's principles but forged an individual style more reminiscent of Sullivan and Irving Gill, with taut planar skins enveloping modern space plans. In 1922 he designed the first modern Catholic church building, St. Thomas the Apostle in Chicago, and in 1924 he traveled to Europe where he met Mies, Mendelsohn, Oud, and other modernist architects. He was the only Prairie School architect to build in Europe, designing the concrete Church of Christ the King, built in 1928–31 in Cork, Ireland.

Dr. Michael charts the entire length of Byrne's work, highlighting its distinctive features while discussing the cultural conditions that kept Byrne in the shadows of his more famous contemporaries. Byrne lacked the architectural ego of his mentor Wright and believed true architecture was intrinsically humble, concentrating for much of his career on Catholic churches and schools throughout North America, many of them now considered landmarks. A dedicated modernist who rejected historical mannerisms and celebrated contemporary materials and processes, he was also a devoted Catholic, progressively participating in the liturgical reform movement from the 1920s until his death. In his practice his modernism and Catholicism came together, revolutionizing the ground plans of Catholic churches in anticipation of the reforms of Vatican II forty years later.

Vincent L. Michael is Senior Director of the Global Heritage Fund in Palo Alto, California, the John H. Bryan Chair of Historic Preservation at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a Trustee of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. 

The First Congregational United Church of Christ
945 G Street NW, Washington, DC 20001 
6:30 pm – reception and book signing, 7:00 pm – lecture

Reservations are not required. $10.00 for Latrobe Chapter members, student members (full time) free with ID, $18.00 for non-members.
Ċ
Bill Marzella,
May 27, 2015, 5:41 PM
Comments