State Hearing on Historic Designation for
Modernist UUCA

State Hearing on Historic Designation for
Modernist UUCA

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington (UUCA), a modernist building with touches of brutalist architecture, has been nominated for inclusion in the Virginia Landmarks Register. (Click here for copy of the detailed nomination form.) UUCA is one of seven considerations before the State Review Board and Board of Historic Resources at their September 18, 2014, meeting in Richmond.

If approved, the property will be placed on the Virginia Landmarks Register, and this nomination will then be forwarded to the National Park Service for consideration for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. Preservation Arlington believes nomination of this modern building is an excellent example of positive stewardship of a church/community building by it’ owners. We applaud the effort that has gone into this nomination process.


A Church for the Modern Era

The UUCA sits at the southwest corner of the busy intersection of George Mason Drive and Arlington Boulevard, nestled behind mature plantings. Taking advantage of a sloping site, the building provides great quiet and solitude just steps away from the bustling community and traffic. The primary structure on the site, and the focus of the historic designation, is the sanctuary building, which was designed by noted modernist architect Charles M. Goodman and opened in 1964.

The pre-cast concrete building features large clerestory windows and an overhanging roof. The unfinished concrete, window treatments and massing are distinguishable as “brutalist” architecture. Sensitive additions were made to the building in 1994 and in 2013, which both provide new space for the congregation but also architecturally complement the original building. The additions use similar materials and design characteristics but are different enough to indicate that they are in fact newer elements. The additions were built in the spirit of Goodman’s original plan for future expansions at the site.

From the nomination form:

The UUCA is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion C, and is significant at the state level as the work of modernist architect Charles M. Goodman and because it is an excellent example of a Modern Movement church building that was specifically suited to its congregation. The area of significance is Architecture, as the design for the UUCA is an excellent representation of many of Goodman’s signature design ideals and also reflects the pinnacle of the architect’s interpretation of his modern aesthetic for ecclesiastical architecture. The UUCA Sanctuary was one of only three ecclesiastical buildings designed by the architect, and it is the only one of his church buildings constructed in Virginia.

The history of the UUCA is reflective of the rapid growth that occurred in Arlington County during the 1950s. Begun the decade before, the UUCA dedicated their first building on this site in 1949 and found themselves quickly out of space and needing to plan for the future -– both for sanctuary space but also for programs and school facilities.

As described in the historic designation nomination, “by the late 1950s, significant growth of the congregation required expansion of the original church facilities. Church leadership and members sought to construct a building that would reflect their liberal, progressive beliefs and that would signify the UUCA’s leadership position within the denomination. In the mid-twentieth century, Unitarian congregations across the country hired modernist architects to design buildings that would represent their position as a church for the modern era. As the Washington, D.C., metropolitan region’s leading modernist architect at this time, Charles M. Goodman was the natural choice for the UUCA’s commission.”

Goodman is well known for his architecture and landscape planning of the Hollin Hills subdivision in Fairfax County, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013.

Hearing Information
State Review Board and Board of Historic Resources
10:00 a. m. September 18, 2014
At Wilton House Museum
215 S. Wilton Road, Richmond, VA 23226
Download full agenda.

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