Kaddish for a Legendary Church

A raging fire guts Adler & Sullivan's 1891 K.A.M./Pilgrim Baptist Church in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood and, in silencing the rich echoes of over a century of human aspiration, offers a potent reminder of how architecture channels urban memory.

"When a fire gutted the Pilgrim Baptist Church last Friday, it seemed only fitting to take solace in the fact that only the building -- the fabricated, lifeless thing -- that had been destroyed. The important thing was that there was no loss of life, no injuries. And yet, there remains a deep sense of loss, not just for Chicago architecture as an aesthetic concern, but for the destruction of a century of collective memories -- the Jewish prayers, the joyous gospel music, the ceremonies of loss and trial and celebration -- that had been absorbed, year upon year, into the rich, warm wood of the church's oak-clad barrel vault. That was what was lost -- an architecture that made the life experience tangible, and passed living emotion down through the generations like a torch."

Thanks to Lynn Becker

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