Tim Bacheller shared with us his award for, “Best Multi-Congregation Design’, in the Faith in Place competition. The competition challenged architects to develop creative solutions to serve the needs of modern communities and congregations. A House of Worship becomes a vehicle for congregations with outdated structures and a need for environmentally friendly architecture while integrating with the broader community. More images and architect’s description after the break.
In the early Christian church, homes were used for formal rites in addition to normal domestic activities. A church building is essentially a house to allow people to gather for worship and witness. The building itself is neither sacred nor holy. It is only the relationship between people that can be considered in these terms.
Typically, a church is exceptionally active only on Sundays and remains dormant the remainder of the week. To ensure greater importance among the community, a house of worship should be active each day of the week. All sorts of activities should be considered: multiple faiths, education, commerce, sports, flea markets, concerts, film, housing, a voting center, farming… and the list goes on and on. Anything and everything should be acknowledged. The house of worship must transform into a house of many different uses.
In order to achieve this, unorthodox forms not typically associated with church structures must be considered. However, iconography still remains important to ensure recognition. While many community members may not be familiar with a church, they will be familiar with an iconic building that offers multiple readings and interpretations.
To reinforce the integration of congregation and community, an organized structure supports free plan universal space. The same structure also supports housing and community gardens. In this manner, the congregation literally supports the community.
Site selection also spotlights community. This project focuses on an urban site, for example, a residential neighborhood within the City of Chicago. A site should be chosen in a place where there is a lack of an activity center. A congregation can take on the role of vanguard in leading a revival. Another option would be a site with a mixture of some commerce within a primarily residential setting. This way a congregation could be opportunistic and take advantage of foot traffic as a means to integrate with a community.
A good community is one that is sustainable. It would be assumed that local materials would be sourced, pervious pavers would be used in the parking areas, and that bicycle storage would be provided. The form also allows for natural ventilation and shading in the summer, and direct sunlight in the winter. But more importantly, rather than focusing on a LEED checklist, a more holistic approach is taken. On the housing level, instead of individual balconies facing outward, they are all combined and turned inward to create a communal courtyard. A sense of community is again reinforced with communal roof gardens. These may be shared with tenants, congregations, community members, and even local businesses such as cafes or restaurants. By allowing for multiple congregations and faiths, and many different activities to take place, the building is used much more often, and is therefore more efficient. Also, because of the housing, a congregation may be supplemented with rental or sales income to further sustain their mission.