• Church of Schindler
    Andrea Lewis & Maura Lucking

Bethlehem Baptist from 49th Street, film still from Church of Schindler, 2014, Los Angeles.

Architectural objects have an uncanny ability to animate us as we work to classify them. Catalyzed by the building's recent reopening, this film essay presents a vernacular reception history of R. M. Schindler's Bethlehem Baptist Church, completed in 1945. Designed as a worship space for a middle-class African American congregation near Los Angeles's Central Avenue corridor, the original owners vacated in 1975, beginning a long slide into material deterioration that more closely mirrored the neighborhood's economic condition than the nascent preservation of modernist buildings that developed elsewhere in the city. As one of the few International Style designs across what is known as the city's "color line," the project holds significance for the urban history of Los Angeles more broadly than as an auterist artifact. During a homespun renovation initiated by new tenants in 2014, the building's proper care and historical significance to its varying constituencies have been debated by architects, historians, and preservationists. Probing deeply held cultural biases and challenging the progressivism of those accustomed to sociocultural abstraction, Church of Schindler puts disciplinary practitioners in front of the lens not as measured commentators but as active agents in the making of architectural history.

Andrea Lewis is a documentary filmmaker based in Los Angeles. Her work as a director and producer has spanned social and cultural issues affecting underrepresented communities, from The House of Tom Finland (2014), on the contemporary use of the groundbreaking queer artist's home as a halfway house for those living with HIV/AIDs, to The Invisible War (2012), on the epidemic of rape in the US military. Her short films have been shown on PBS's Independent Lens and most recently, she served as co-producer for City of Gold, nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. She studied at the University of Indiana, Bloomington, and has since that time remained committed to the dissemination of complicated ideas to a generalist audience by means of compelling narrative storytelling.

Maura Lucking is an architectural historian currently pursuing a PhD in critical studies from the University of California Los Angeles’s Department of Architecture and Urban Design, and holds degrees in art history from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Boston College. Her professional practice explores the capacity of creative modes of media to build scholarly epistemologies. Her writing has appeared in publications including Design Issues and Rhizome; she is an editor at VIA Publication, an intra-disciplinary print journal focused on the city of Los Angeles as a cultural apparatus; and she recently edited Architectones: Art in the Living Environment (Los Angeles: SPA, 2015), on the sculptural and social installations of Xavier Veilhan within and upon significant modernist buildings. Her work has previously been supported by the Getty Research Institute and she has lectured at Woodbury University and the Southern California Institute of Architecture.