Grafton church recognized for its unique architecture

by Paul Braun | New Earth

An exterior view of St. John the Evangelist Church in Grafton. (Courtesy Roch Tweten)

It has stood as a landmark in Grafton since its construction in 1963, and now St. John the Evangelist Church is being heralded as an award-winning structure. The North Dakota Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) recognized St. John’s as the winner of its 2018 Test of Time award, which acknowledges significant contributions of timeless design to communities in North Dakota.

St. John’s was nominated by AIA member architect Bobbi Hepper Olson, the architect hired for the parish’s installation of a large stained-glass window from the former Cardinal Muench Seminary that was placed in the parish hall. When she saw the church, first from the outside and then the interior worship space, she knew she had to tell her peers in the industry about it.

The interior of St. John the Evangelist mostly inspired the award. (Courtesy Rock Tweten)

“The interior has that timeless feeling and peaceful atmosphere,” Hepper Olson stated in her nomination. “As you enter the main church you find the white marble table that stands in the center of the sanctuary. You are aware of spectacular colors of light that radiate through the 12 prismatic windows of the pleated structure, and the 18 faceted glass windows on each side of the north and south facades.”

The church was designed by the architectural firm of Freeks, Sperl and Flynn in St. Paul, Minn. According to the nomination letter, the design of the church is based on a square plan, which differs from the typical cross floor plan used in most church designs.

The AIA announced the award during its Design Award luncheon on Oct. 10.