by Lauren Polhamus
The St. Pius X Catholic Church is a unique structure designed in the Modernist style by James Lamantia, Jr., completed in 1966. The church is a part of an assembly of Modern buildings, including St. Pius X Elementary School, Lake Vista United Methodist Church and the Lake Vista Community Shopping Center, in the Lakefront area just north of New Orleans. Designed to be a cultural focal point for the new Lakefront neighborhood, the structures on this site were designed in highly contemporary and experimental styles that reflected the daring new house designs and residential planning of the surrounding neighborhood. The unusual design of the church also reflects the change in the Catholic Church at this time. The octagonal plan with the altar at the center allows a unified space within the church as opposed to the traditional axial arrangement of churches stressing hierarchy. The dramatic copper roof draws close to the ground in wide planar folds that belie the great amount of natural light that enters into the church through clerestory windows running between the roof line and the walls. The central tower is faced on the north side with colored glass which focused light onto the altar. The church fits very naturally into its environs of Modern buildings as a structure embodying an embrace of new ideas and design methodologies.