Page N1.2 . 05 September 2001                     
ArchitectureWeek - News Department
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  • Faith in Architecture
  • GE Lighting Awards 2001
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    Faith in Architecture


    Of the design of the Dawoodi Bohra Mosque, the jury noted that particularly successful "is the way that the building frames an exterior courtyard, reminiscent of mosques around the world. In spite of a traditional vocabulary of design elements, it remains a contemporary structure."

    The second Texas project of distinction is the Riverbend Church in Austin. This "megachurch," few of which have excelled in architectural quality, is tied to the natural landscape and makes this necessarily gargantuan building sensitively scaled and welcoming.

    Designed by Overland Partners, Riverbend Church draws inspiration from classical stone amphitheaters, with its sanctuary positioned at the edge of a steep precipice.

    The spectacular natural setting is the genesis for an earthly palette of warm materials including wood, sandstone, limestone, and painted metal. The jury noted that Riverbend was "the best example to date of this faith-expressed art form."

    Church as Ethnic Melting Pot

    Two other winners reflect the ethnic history and traditions of their congregations. Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, designed by Bahr Vermeer Haecker Architects, is a melding of Lakota spirituality and Roman Catholic tradition, embracing each other with respect and open arms.

    For example, the Lakota Medicine Wheel and its symbolic respect toward nature's four cardinal points coincides with the symbolic form of the Celtic Cross in the Catholic tradition. Both are used in the design as unity symbols.

    The church's stained glass windows, designed by Francis He Crow, a Lakota elder, are graphic interpretations of Lakota stories that parallel Biblical themes. The jury noted that Holy Rosary "exhibits the wonderful influence of two traditions expressed in elegant form."

    Ethnic precedents also govern the design of the New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in DeKalb, Illinois. Designed by Harding Associates, this gleaming white church recalls the vernacular "spirit houses" in South Carolina and Georgia, where slaves gathered for liturgical celebration and expression.

    These humble buildings were simple, white-washed, wood-frame structures with unadorned interiors. Daylighting, symbolic of God's enlightenment, permeated the worship space and created an ever-changing tapestry for worship.

    Building on the spirit house typology, New Hope's simple construction technology was used for cost considerations, and also to reflect the origins of African American religious architecture in this country. The colors and materials of the main worship space are akin to those used in African cultural icons.

    Strong geometry distinguishes the design of the First German United Methodist Church in Glendale, California, by Fields Devereaux Architects & Engineers. The church serves a modest congregation of 150 families, which moved from an old church in central Los Angeles.

    The architects were instructed to invigorate the design with a contemporary language that looks to the future rather than the past, but also to incorporate elements from the older building.

    The site on a busy thoroughfare is buffered by a walled entry courtyard, which provides isolation from the noise of traffic and a place for outdoor gatherings. The building shapes, and in turn is shaped by, this courtyard, which is articulated by a trellis that provides shade and defines the edges.

    According to the jury, "The integration of old, meaningful pieces from a former church results in an inspiring combination of forms that points to the future with its graceful, contemporary design. This project encloses the site, creating an excellent separation of the secular from the sacred."

    Country Churches

    Drawing on rural roots is the design for the Orcas Christian Church and School in Eastsound on Orcas Island, Washington. This facility, designed by Lewis Architects, fulfills the worship needs of the Adventist congregation and provides a private school for children in Kindergarten through grade six.

    Seeking a small "country church" of only 1,600 square feet (150 square meters), the congregation wanted the school close to the church but in a separate building nearly three times larger.

    Both are sensitively placed on the three-acre site, and express an elegant simplicity inside and out. The awards jury noted: "This is a church that looks like it belongs, as though it has always been there. It contains a beautiful worship space that also relates to the local vernacular."

    The Chapel of the Abbey of St. Warburga in Northern Colorado, by Barrett Studio Architects, is a fusion of old forms and light-filled space that fulfills the principles that have for a dozen centuries guided the Benedictine order: beauty, stability, symmetry, frugality and simplicity, and harmony with nature.



    ArchWeek Image

    Dawoodi Bohra Mosque, by Oglesby-Greene Architects.
    Photo: Charles Davis Smith

    ArchWeek Image

    Riverbend Church in Austin, designed by Overland Partners.
    Photo: Paul Bardagjy Photography

    ArchWeek Image

    Riverbend Church.
    Photo: Paul Bardagjy Photography

    ArchWeek Image

    Riverbend Church floor plan.
    Image: Overland Partners

    ArchWeek Image

    Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, designed by Bahr Vermeer Haecker Architects.
    Photo: Douglas Kahn Photography

    ArchWeek Image

    Holy Rosary Catholic Church.
    Photo: Douglas Kahn Photography

    ArchWeek Image

    Holy Rosary Catholic Church floor plan.
    Image: Bahr Vermeer Haecker Architects

    ArchWeek Image

    New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in DeKalb, Illinois, designed by Harding Associates.
    Photo: Craig Dugan/ Hedrich Blessing


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