Holy Rosary Church Complex Succumbs to Redesign

Courtesy of Holy Rosary Church

After a recent settlement between the administration of the Holy Rosary Church and “those involved with the design and construction” of the complexes, the church is moving forward with new plans to redesign the elegant six-year-old complex. The new design, by WHLC Architecture, may not be changing much in respect to the structure – “we are not demolishing the entire buildings” the administration reassures – but the reconstruction defaces the original intent of the simple geometries and material choices made by Trahan Architects when the church complex was first designed in 2004.

Courtesy of Trahan Architects

In letters to the parish, the administration is pleased with the new design that comes off as more traditional.  The original palette of poured in place concrete, plate glass and cast glass gives the design a simplicity that channels a meditative space.  The simple projecting geometries of the original buildings’ design was an exploration of space, light, materials and function, producing an architectural space that was neither austere or opulent but resulted in a profound sacred space. These notions are replaced with unnecessarily complex and decorated forms that distract from the simplicity of the original structure.

Courtesy of Holy Rosary Church

The new site plan disregards sanctuary-like space produced by the four perimeter buildings laid out by Trahan Architects. The interior courtyard, designed to function as a meditative space with the chapel at its center, no longer exists in the new site plans. It is unclear whether this full design will be completed, but for now the administrative building which is the entrance into the space is being renovated in such a way that it is both a focal point and distraction from the concepts of the sacred spaces developed by the original architects and the chapel that was once its focus.

Courtesy of Holy Rosary Church

The new design, with the elaborate covered drop-off, pitched roof and mullioned windows, stands in opposition to the original consideration of the architects. The chapel, once the focal point of the original plan, slightly visible from the covered entrance yet concealed with the perimeter buildings, is veiled in the new construction and stands in competition with the new covered drop-off that clashes in style, form and materials.

Courtesy of Trahan Architects

It is tragic to see such a beautifully conceived work of architecture succumb to demolition and design changes years after its construction.  It begs the questions, if architecture is a creative art, who does it really belong to?  We can argue over which is better, but ultimately, and maybe in some minds, unfortunately, the decision rests on the client, who in this case is the Holy Rosary Church and is dissatisfied with the design pursued by Trahan Architects.

 Original Project Details:

Architects: Trahan Architects, APAC
Project Architect: Victor F. “Trey” Trahan III, FAIA
Design team: Brad David, Kirk Edwards
Structural Engineer: Schrenk & Peterson Consulting Engineers
Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing Engineer: Apex Engineering Corporation
BUILDER: Quality Design and Construction, Inc.
Project Area: 1,586 sqm
Project year: 2004
Photographer: Tim Hursley / The Arkansas Office

Learn more about the original Holy Rosary Church by Trahan Architects, here on Archdaily.

Cite: Vinnitskaya, Irina. "Holy Rosary Church Complex Succumbs to Redesign" 09 Oct 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 27 May 2015. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=280035>
  • http://www.weava.hk Jean-Hubert Chow

    What a shame!!! Are they nuts??? Why Pastiche should be the new Canon of Beauty of religious architecture… Spirituality has nothing to do with trivialisation of popular bad understanding of Architecture…

  • Michael F.

    There’s probably more to the story than simply tearing down an 8 year old building(s) to be replaced by something more traditional in its feel. I do think its an incredible waste of resources, but as much as leadership and interest among congregations and ebb and flow (as well as experience turnover), it also comes down to usability and feel post-occupancy. The pictures of Trahan’s design are stunning and beautiful, but the sparseness of the spaces may have been something that the occupants bought into thinking they would like it much much better than dealing with it on a daily basis

  • scott

    pitiful…such a sacred space demoed for such a profane scheme…

  • jman

    There has to be more going on. While Trahan images are striking, the demolition images suggest some premature black streaking of the concrete that could be bad mix design, concrete surface failures etc. The age of the concrete looks like building that were built in the 60′-70′s and not 8 years ago.

    • Rachid

      It is a shame….it was a great concept but the images as you suggest look as though they had weathered poorly, indicating either bad detailing/construction both of which to varying degrees are within the architects control.

      This is the ultimate price to pay for poor detailing. The average person is not going to appreciate a concrete structure ageing poorly and to be frank as an architect I can’t defend the way this looked pre-demolition.

      A lot of lessons to be learnt for all.

  • Christine G. H. Franck

    Who does architecture belong to? The public first, those it serves second. Who it does not “belong” to is the architects. Architecture is a public art always in service to things far greater than itself. It is telling to me that the clients were dissatisfied with the planar simplicity of the first church, designed to be “an exploration of space, light, materials and function,” rather than designed to be loved and inspiring to the parishioners and the public, and moreover, designed to be a worshipful offering worthy of God. What is a shame to me is that the first project was ever built when clearly the clients did not and would not like it, and now to see the materials, energy and parish money wasted in its demolition and reconstruction is incredibly sad. I wish architects would focus more on what ordinary people love and less on what they wish to express. Architecture is not an art, it is the art of building.

  • aoj wny

    The streaking of the concrete in the demolition photos, I would venture to say, is neither bad mix design or concrete surface failure, but poor architectural design, i.e., local climatic issues were not taken into account. The chapel as originally built was a striking, pristine cube, quite beautiful in its simplicity, but the flat roof was entirely inappropriate to the Louisiana climate. The same can be seen for the other flat roofed concrete boxes, which also weathered poorly. No wonder pitched roofs feature prominently in the new scheme. Windows, also, are a feature of the new design, instead of the windowless (on 3 sides anyway) boxes of the original scheme. I assume the church wants something that stands up to the climate and will look good for years, instead of a climatically inappropriate design which only looked good temporarily.

  • mark haladyna

    “Do not cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.” Matthew 7:6

    Not a religious person but I couldn’t resist the irony.
    (just to be clear “pearls”=original design…)

  • Ismael Medina

    Es una verdadera pena…

  • QuotingMencken

    “No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.”

  • http://www.harding.com Paul Harding, FAIA

    The new replacement building, like the replacement NFL referees, is rather mediocre at best. The replacement looks like Louisiana Disneyland. It is hard to believe that the parish leadership chose to tear down a wonderful building by a great regional architect, Trey Trahan.

  • dsdasd fsdfdsfs

    I’m offended by this.

  • ciarbanor

    Not only did it not weather correctly in our Louisiana climate, it leaked from day one, did not function, and it felt like you were having service in a public restroom!
    I appluade the architect for pushing a design to win an award without any concern for the actual user of the space! Who care what the public thinks as long as the architectrual community is happy.

  • desa

    trahan may be good with forms and design, but i agree, a tropical climate and hurrricane katrina will take its toll on concrete cubes. Perhaps what the parish should have done was to go back to the architect to solve the streaking (maybe leaking?) issues. Coming from someone who lives in the tropics, glass cubed designers in these regions are clueless when it comes to weathering and heat alleviation.

  • Doug C.

    This looks like a real shame. I think it’s too bad the original architects could not be involved in adapting their plan to adjust for the issues raised by the church. The main entry elevation does look a little plain but the interior spaces look quite good.

    The revised plan looks like the generic ahistorical design that has become the fall back position for clients with no historic architectural knowledge. Gothic Mall entrance? Hotel? You decide.

    The larger issue is the divergence of mass taste and architects ideas. We are reaching an unbridgable gap between building sensitively for the present and building only for the past and a past that never existed.

  • Eric in Colorado

    Christine Frank’s comment is the root cause of this issue. Architecture DOES NOT belong to the public. It certainly exists there but in the end it should be the expression of the owner/user of the building. Sad as it is that some users have very poor taste, as we see here, they do have the right to do whatever they want to their building.

  • Bob BIABD

    Namaz Khaneh (Prayer Room) National Carpet Museum, Laleh Park, Tehran, Iran.
    A tiny Moslem place of prayer aligned towards Mecca.
    Designed by Dibo and Parvin Pezeshki. More.
    In Minimum by John Pawson.© 1996 Phaidon Press Limited.