Lloyd Wright’s Wayfarers Chapel Is Being Moved

Landslides threaten the beloved structure

Wayfarers Chapel
The Wayfarers Chapel in a landslide prone area following its closure due to land movement after heavy rains in Rancho Palos Verdes, California on February 16, 2024.
PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images

Great architecture can inspire us, transport us and prompt us to rethink how we interact with the world. Still, all of those qualities don’t prevent notable buildings and structures from being at risk of natural disasters, and that’s the conundrum currently facing Ranchos Palos Verdes’s Wayfarers Chapel. Some of you may know it from it place in the pantheon of works designed by Lloyd Wright, son of Frank Lloyd Wright; others might recall it from its appearance in The O.C.

Unfortunately for aficionados of the building, landslides don’t much care about notable architecture — and California has had plenty of the former in recent years. Earlier this year, Wayfarers Chapel announced that it was temporarily closing due to land movement in the area — which could put visitors and couples planning to tie the knot there in danger. And now, the entire building is being dismantled, with the plan to rebuild it in a more stable location.

As Harrison Jacobs explained at ARTnews, Wayfarers Chapel has been at risk from unstable terrain since it was first built in the 1950s. A landslide in February damaged the building, and the full process of relocation is expected to take four years to complete.

“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,” said the chapel’s executive director, Rev. Dan Burchett, in a statement.

“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.”

Rancho Palos Verdes mayor John Cruikshank noted that the chapel is working with both the National Park Service and Architectural Resources Group — a firm that specializes in historic preservation — on the relocation project.

“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,” said Architectural Resources Group principal Katie Horak in a statement. “With each passing day, more of this material is lost or irreparably damaged.”

Hopefully when the project is complete, Wayfarers Chapel will be on more stable ground — figuratively and literally.

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