Lloyd Wright’s Wayfarers Chapel to be disassembled and reconstructed due to landslide risk

As complex as it may be, anastylosis seems to be the best approach to save the monument.

The landslides on the hills of Los Angeles are so well-known—and in their way, iconic—that a famous novel by the American writer A.M. Homes, “This Book Will Save Your Life,” begins with one of them as a symbolic pretext for changing the protagonist’s life. The complex of dormant landslides that shaped the south side of the Palos Verdes Peninsula in California thousands of years ago has reactivated in the last century, threatening to destabilize significant areas of the region, including Portuguese Bend. This geological movement has never truly stopped since 1956, and in recent years it has accelerated further, making the Portuguese Bend landslide the largest and fastest-moving active landslide in the United States, affecting several buildings, including the so-called Glass Church, the Wayfarers Chapel, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright’s eldest son, Lloyd Wright.

Several damages have already been detected in the building's metal structure, both in the walls and the ceiling, causing various deformations. Most of the glass panels are cracked, and several doors are no longer usable. Additional damage is visible on the concrete floor, and even the cornerstone placed in 1949 shows signs of deterioration. These damages will inevitably continue to progress, making maintenance increasingly difficult. Immediate deconstruction appears to be the safest and most feasible option to preserve this monument, conserving as many original materials as possible and cataloging and documenting every piece. The chapel’s stewards are collaborating with historic preservation experts, led by the Architectural Resources Group (ARG) of Los Angeles. Since it is a structure not designed to be dismantled, its reconstruction could be very challenging. Yet, as complex as it may be, this is the only way to save the Wayfarers Chapel.

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