Christ the King Church

1530 South Rockford Avenue
Tulsa, Oklahoma

Completed 1927

Designed by Barry Byrne (1883–1967) and Alfonso Iannelli (1888–1965)

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Modernist artist and industrial designer Alfonso Iannelli and prairie-school architect Barry Byrne teamed up to create a series of outstanding Roman Catholic churches in the Midwest, and Tulsa’s art deco Christ the King Church was the finest of these. In 1914, Iannelli worked with Frank Lloyd Wright in the design of the Midway Gardens, creating the cubist sculptural works that Wright incorporated into the exterior and interior design of the building, and Byrne had been an apprentice to Wright in the previous decade. The Byrne-Iannelli partnership was based on their own separate talents: Iannelli as a sculptor and Byrne as an architect.

In Tulsa, Iannelli met the young Bruce Goff who had just designed the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce/Tulsa Club. Impressed by his talents, he asked Goff to assist with the church design—Goff designed the mosaics in the side altars—and they became lifelong friends.

Barry Byrne was apprenticed in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Oak Park architecture studio from 1902 to 1907 before setting out on his own, often collaborating with other architects. In the 1920s, his work focused on buildings for the Catholic Church, primarily in the Chicago area. Iannelli immigrated to the United States from Italy in 1898. He was trained as a sculptor and was also an outstanding graphic designer. Between 1910 and 1915, he created posters for the vaudeville acts for the lobby of the Orpheus Theater in Los Angeles. Moving to Chicago after the commission for Wright, he established a studio in the Chicago suburb of Park Ridge. In the 1920s and 1930s, Iannelli branched out into industrial design, and created products for Chicago manufacturers, in particular Sunbeam. An example in the Kravis collection illustrates his multiple talents as a designer. His wife Margaret also collaborated with him, and her role as co-designer is now being recognized.