Wayfarers Leadership Move Forward with Disassembly of the Iconic Chapel to Save it from Imminent Destruction in Landslide

May 13, 2024

Wayfarers Chapel is a National Historic Landmark, designed by renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright, Jr. (Lloyd Wright). Resting on a peninsula, this site hosts the chapel and campus on a hillside above the Pacific Ocean where wayfarers could stop to rest, meditate, and give thanks to God. Lloyd Wright, the son of the American architectural innovator Frank Lloyd Wright, created a design with an emphasis on harmony between God’s natural world and the inner world of mind and spirit.

Currently Wayfarers Chapel and the surrounding grounds are closed due to the momentum of local land movement. The Portuguese Bend landslide has accelerated at an unprecedented rate and is dramatically impacting the Wayfarers Chapel campus and surrounding area. The Wayfarers community is committed to preserving the historic chapel and giving it a resilient future. Constrained by nature and the rapidly moving landslide, the goal is to save the chapel by collaborating with historic preservation experts, led by Architectural Resources Group (ARG) of Los Angeles, to carefully “deconstruct” (disassemble) the chapel to preserve as many materials (many of which are no longer being made or available) as possible for a future careful and thoughtful rebuilding of the chapel.

“The accelerating destruction of Wayfarers Chapel by the Portuguese Bend landslide complex is a looming tragedy felt by many. Our hearts go out to our many neighbors whose homes are threatened.” Dan Burchett, Executive Director continued, “Wayfarers is committed to preserving our iconic chapel exactly as it has always been, either on the current site or a similar site close by in Rancho Palos Verdes. We are taking immediate action to carefully disassemble the chapel’s historic materials as a necessary step in the preservation of the chapel for generations to come.”

“Wayfarers Chapel has been a treasured part of our community for generations. The City of Rancho Palos Verdes is committed to working with Wayfarers Chapel to ensure it can be quickly rebuilt on a geologically safe location somewhere within the city, if possible. We are pleased that Wayfarers is working with the National Park Service and the preservation experts at Architectural Resources Group to ensure the chapel will be preserved according to the highest standards for historic preservation,” stated Mayor John Cruikshank.

The movement on the site to date has caused damage to the metal framing in both the walls and ceiling causing it to torque and bend; most of the glass panels have fractured; many doors are no longer operable; the concrete floor has heavily cracked; and even the cornerstone laid in 1949 has a long crack through it. In addition, services underground including electricity, water, sewer, and gas utilities are broken and currently unusable. The chapel will not be able to withstand much more damage before it becomes impossible to preserve.

“So many of the chapel’s original materials that were part of the Lloyd Wright design cannot be replicated today: the old growth redwood glulam, the blue roof tiles, the elegant network of steel that holds the windows together. With each passing day, more of this material is lost or irreparably damaged. Our team is working against the clock to document and move these building components to safety so that they can be put back together again,” said Katie Horak, Principal of Architectural Resources Group.

It has been determined that the immediate deconstruction of the chapel is the safest and most viable preservation action to take at this time and will prevent further irreparable damage to the chapel’s structure and materials. The team will begin the careful disassembly of the chapel, which includes cataloguing and documenting each piece, preserving as much of the chapel’s original materials as practicable, and relocating all component parts to a temporary safe location until they can be reassembled. Simultaneously, the team will evaluate options for reconstruction on this site or one nearby.

Read our disassembly and restoration frequently asked questions.

About Wayfarers Chapel

Wayfarers Chapel, or “The Glass Church,” in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, is a spiritual center serving “the wayfarer” — that is, all who come, no matter their faith or status. Wayfarers provides a place of unique and exquisite beauty where wayfarers can experience the beauty of the created world, to rest, meditate, and reflect. Wayfarers has served the public for free since its opening in 1951. The Wayfarers Chapel, designed by Lloyd Wright, was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2023, just before the Portuguese landslide forced its closure in February 2024.

Contact:

Rev. Dan Burchett

Executive Director, Wayfarers Chapel

danb@wayfarerschapel.org