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Encinitas Loses a Landmark

By John Eisenhart

On December 16, 2005, the City of Encinitas Planning Commission voted unanimously to raze St. Mark Lutheran Church and approved a parking lot site plan for the Scripps Memorial Hospital. "The Kentucky Fried Chicken Restaurant down the street displays better architectural merit." With such sentiment, the consciousness of the governmental body was resolved to demolish a local iconographic church. The Scripps Memorial Hospital, owner of the property, refused to modify their parking lot design to accommodate the church and with no loss of the 365 spaces in order to let the building stand. No one at the church was willing to talk with SOHO or entertain alternative plans to keep the structure.

The interior of St. Mark Lutheran Church


St. Mark Lutheran Church was built in 1961. It was believed to be a replica of a church in Spain. It was a unique structure employing a structural system that is rarely used any longer: the concrete shell. The concrete shell is a reinforced concrete shape that corresponds to the exterior form of the building. The architect, Walter Hagadone and the stain glass artist, believed to be Roger Deracarrera, deserve recognition in their fusing together of form and function to produce a classic mid-century minimalist church. The leaders of architecture, engineering and building were pushing the limits of form and materials. It is saddening to let buildings and landscapes be demolished for such trivial needs as a parking lot. It hurts two-fold when that structure was originally meant to signal a new beginning for a community. The church would have provided a concise understanding of this era's zeitgeist for future generations.

Although we failed to save the building, our work has and will help raise awareness of cultural resources in North County. We found that the community did not vocally express opposition to losing the church. Perhaps this can be attributed to a lack of political organization in the community or general apathy towards their environment. We do not know the true reason for their neglect, but perhaps it may be the lack of understanding recent history. Post WWII buildings, especially the early 1960's, are more difficult to understand and appreciate. Parallels in the art community can be found also. Figurative painting is easier for patrons to engage than abstract painting. Also the parable of not appreciating something until it is gone or in ruins fuels much sentiment for preservation. We might have to be patient, educate and wait for the collective perception to become enlightened. The next era of preservation will prove a challenge to gain acceptance with the public before the loss of more significant works occurs in greater numbers.

2006 - Volume 37, Issue 1

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