The InTowner
To receive free monthly notices advising of the availability of each new PDF issue, simply send an email request to and include name, postal mailing address and phone number. This information will not be shared with any other lists or entities.

Advertisement

Statement Presented to HPRB by Ryan Winfield on Behalf of St. Thomas’ Parish (4/2/2015)

Good afternoon, my name is Ryan Winfield, and I am the chair of the Building Committee of St. I have kept thinking about something the Madame Chairperson said…that the last church design looked as if it had landed at 18th and Church. When I look at this design, I see a church rising up… like a phoenix taking flight.

Thomas Parish, which means that I when I am not fixing a squeaky door, changing the odd light bulb, or shoveling snow, I serve in the role of church builder. To that end, my committee has always sought to build a church that would share in the same architectural tradition of the beautiful, monumental churches that either grace the avenues or punctuate the traffic circles of our own city, and consequently, over the past five months, we have taken seriously the feedback received from of the board, historic preservation office staff, our architects, the parish, and the community in order to accomplish this task. The project you see before you is the result of this great effort.

When building a new church, a progressive community (it stands to reason) is best served by progressive architecture. We do not need to dig up visual elements of our past and fashion a future out of them, and as much as I admire the neoclassical architecture of National City Christian Church, whose spire rises up just beyond my living room window, we in the 21st century have the opportunity to build a church differently from those who built them before. While often beautiful, many of those churches also seem to have been built with the intention of appearing as imposing edifices–either as veritable bulwarks against shifting social mores of the day or as places of deep mystery-accessible to only to a chosen few. Places whose interior life is so far removed from the street life on their very doorstep, they often appear either neglected or abandoned. We are neither of those things.

So, while our new church may not look like a traditional church, I think that’s ok. Those who pass by our new doors, whether they enter them or not, will experience this place differently, and in the following ways, we believe the church will serve as a signature landmark in the city.

On the pedestrian level, the building places no visual impediment between passersby and the community within, being open to the outside world and separated only by a near continuous wall of glass around two sides of the building. This glass wall then meets the gracious rise of a monumental staircase made manifest on the exterior—creating a visible pathway to sanctuary to anyone approaching the church—from even blocks away. This staircase not only allows visitors to more easily navigate their way to the sanctuary, it also invites them to metaphorically rise up to a different plane of experience from their everyday lives. To be holy is to be set apart, and the sanctuary level on the second floor, clearly delineated from the rest of the building, expresses this idea. While it is sustained by the ground beneath, it is not bound by it. It is therefore left free to float just above street level, which we think allows it to hover symbolically somewhere between this world and whatever is beyond it, a place that religious structures often hold in our imaginations.

Those who ascend from the main steps below will be caught in a transfigurative tidal wave of undulating light pouring in from across the façade, ushering them ultimately into a sanctuary shrouded in a thin veil woven together with modern materials. This veil will not only give people inside glimpses of the outside world they left temporarily behind, it will radiate both color and light on the exterior, like a modern expression of the stained glass found in many sacred spaces.

The remaining classroom and fellowship hall floors, being expressed solely in clear sheets of glass, fall away from the façade and cede attention to the clearly-defined sanctuary below, and yet, they play a crucial part in evoking a sense of the church as being figuratively open to the heavens above…and with the terrace, the church is quite literally open to the heavens above.

For these reasons, we are very pleased with the direction the design has taken and look forward to see where it continues going.