Liturgical architecture researcher advocates importance of Austin church

Forrest Milburn

Researcher Jason John Paul Haskins advocated the saving of St. Martin’s Evangelical Lutheran Church as one of Austin’s mid-20th century masterpieces during a lecture Wednesday at the School of Architecture.

The lecture from Haskins, a liturgical architecture researcher, came after the church announced in August it was considering seeking a demolition permit while the property’s appraisal value is assessed.

“The response to the announcement that the church was considering filing for a demolition permit can only be described as incredulous,” Haskins said.  

Haskins’ lecture was a part of the Goldsmith Talks, an open-format series that invites speakers outside of the scope of the school’s main lecture series, according to the school’s website.

“Jason’s just one of those guys that went with an idea of something he was interested in and zoomed in and learned everything he could about it,” architecture professor Larry Speck said. “When the issue came up about St. Martin’s, [his expertise] made him the perfect spokesperson for the value of this important piece of architecture.”

Haskins argued the church’s construction marks a crucial moment in modern architecture throughout the state, although the church does not receive much recognition outside Austin.

Haskins also said the church should be designated a historic site because it satisfies two of the city’s five historical site requirements, including the architectural significance requirement with its elevated altars, stained glass windows and the capstone figures on the outside representing the ascension of Jesus Christ.

According to Haskins, the church’s acoustics satisfy the community value requirement by adding to the cultural identity of Austin.

“As a result of the acoustics, along with the grand, intimate space, St. Martin’s is a beloved venue for many of Austin’s high-quality performing arts groups,” Haskins said.

Haskins said the church congregation will vote in November to decide its future.

Architecture freshman Chris Stoll said the lecture convinced him of the church’s significance.

“I was kind of surprised that the church leadership was so OK with the church being demolished, and they were almost advocating their fellowship agree with the church being demolished,” Stoll said. “But I’m glad that people have spoken out against that action, and now it’s almost sure that it will stay and still exist.”

Clarification: This article was published in the Sept. 24, 2015 edition of The Daily Texan as "Architect argues for church preservation." Jason John Paul Haskins is a liturgical architecture researcher, and he did not offer services as an architect or identify himself as a practicing architect.