Saint John's Abbey Church was designed by Marcel Breuer. The church features cast-in-place concrete which became a stepping-stone in the modern design of religious architecture in the United States. The structure consists of giant, trunk-like stems that support the ceiling and a dominant bell banner that shields the church.
In 1950, Abbot Baldwin Dworschak made an audacious decision resulting in what art historians have called a milestone in the evolution of the architecture of the Catholic Church in the USA. He contacted twelve exalted architects, amoung them was Marcel Breuer. Abbot Baldwin asked the architects to submit a building design for the second century of Saint John's. As part of his stipulations, Abbot Baldwin required a design for "building a church which will be truly an architectural monument to the service of God...The Benedictine tradition at its best challenges us to think boldly and to cast our ideals in forms which will be valid for centuries to come."
Breuer's plan aimed at creating a clear division between the monastic living quarters and the educational facilities. The two are connected by the important structures they both share; the church, auditorium, library, and administration building.
The main floor plan reflects the basic liturgical concepts of the Order. One enters the symbolic center doorway, down the center aisle to the altar and abbot's throne, around which is placed the very large choir. The relation of the abbot's throne and monks' choir to the congregation defines the shape of the plan with the altar near the center of the church in the plain view of congregation, choir, and large balcony.