Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Draped for Demolition

According to a recent New York Times article, Our Lady of Loreto Church in Brownsville, New York stands "draped for demolition." Shrouded in black steel netting, the church is ready for demolition. Like an innocent convict awaiting the electric chair, it's spiritual family fights to save it's life. To prove it's continued value to society it which it stands.

Maybe it's my age. Maybe it's the age I live in. Never have I been so aware of the transient nature of things. Never have I seen the loss of things that were supposed to be considered "permanent".

I have been on a architectural history kick lately, immersing myself in books like Tilt, the history of the construction of the Leaning Tower in Pisa, Italy; Basilica, the history of the construction of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, Italy; Brunelleschi's Dome, the history of the construction of the dome on Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, Italy. The amazing thing about reading about these buildings is that I can still EXPERIENCE them. I can re-connect with the past.

As John Ruskin put it ...

"Therefore, when we build, let us think that we build forever. Let it not be for a present delight, nor for present use alone; let it be such work as our descendents will thank us for, and let us think, as we lay stone on stone, that a time is to come when those stones will be held sacred because our hands have touched them, and that men will say as they look upon the labor and wrought substance of them, 'See!, this our fathers did for us.'"

This is why we fight so hard when our churches are being torn down.

I've asked this question before on this blog ... what happens to us as a society when the what intended to "last forever" doesn't?

Our Lady of Loreto Church | 124 Sackman Street | Brooklyn, NY 11233

PHOTO: Fred R. Conrad, The New York Times

Thursday, March 25, 2010

March 23, 2010

In life, you never forget some days. On March 23, 2010, Cleveland, Ohio took a blow to its ecclesiastical architectural heritage.

Struck by lighting, within minutes, The Euclid Avenue Congregational Church went up in a blaze. Within a couple of days, it will be a memory ... as it being completely demolished.

Dedicated in December 1887, the church was built from Ohio sandstone in the Romanesque style. To it's (former) left, across a parking lot, stands it's ecclesiastical neighbor — East Mount Zion Baptist Church. Between the two structures, East Mount Zion gets most of the architectural attention. Euclid Avenue Congregational's beauty was restrained. You really had to study it see just how deceptively beautiful it truly was. The church was solid, well-proportioned and elegantly designed.

My condolences to the congregation of The Euclid Avenue Congregational Church on the loss of their spiritual home.

PHOTOS: left: Cleveland Memory Project; right: John Kuntz, The Cleveland Plain Dealer

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

St. Boniface Church — Chicago, Ill

The battle to save historic St. Boniface Church in Chicago's West Town neighborhood might be coming to a close. The victor — adaptive reuse.

A developer has come forward to propose the following ... SAVE the church exterior and quintessential four corner towers ... but GUT the interior and turn it into a senior living center. This website gives more details.

Shuttered since 1989, St. Boniface was designed by well-known Chicago ecclesiastical architect Henry J. Schlacks in 1902. In addition to being a wonderful architect, Schlacks was also a teacher, and was appointed the first Director of the Course in Architecture at the University of Notre Dame.

Take a look at the proposed plans.

Purist wish that this structure would be saved in tact. To them, adaptive reuse is seen as a compromise. I say "compromise away"!

St. Boniface Church | 1358 W. Chestnut Street | Chicago, IL

PHOTO: www.stbonifaceinfo.com

Monday, July 6, 2009

Preservation by Relocation.

Preservation by Relocation ... I like it.

It's the concept of saving a historic building by MOVING it, rather than repurposing it ... Amazing. Brave. Needed.

That's what the Diocese of Buffalo is calling the potential literal moving of St. Gerard's Church in Buffalo, NY to Atlanta, GA.

Check out this blog story. Apparently, they can't build churches fast enough in the South. So, a congregation in Atlanta, GA is interested in purchasing St. Gerard's Church and dismantling it ... stone by stone. According to officials in the Diocese of Buffalo, the prospects of selling the church are "nonexistent" to another congregation ... much less repurpose it.

An estimate for moving the church is $3 million dollars. Big side note ... that's how much they are paying for the new Catholic Church in Grafton, OH that I mentioned in a previous post.

Question to future congregations looking to find, or to build a new church ... How would you rather spend your $3 million dollars?

PHOTO: Sharon Cantillon/The Buffalo News

St. Gerard Church in Buffalo, NY ... Moving to Georgia?

I was turned on to this story from a blogger responding to my post on the closing of St. James Church in Lakewood, OH. The blogger suggested that the church could possibly be sold and moved like St. Gerard's Church in Buffalo, NY. ...

What ?

So, I did a Google search for St. Gerard's Church in Buffalo, NY, and lo and behold, it's a possibility being discussed. (Link to story here.)

As you can guess, there is a lot of controversy regarding the dismantling and moving of this church among those in Buffalo who would like to see the building POTENTIALLY "repurposed" versus those who would like to see the church moved with the GUARANTEE that it would live on in another community.

My vote -- SAVE the building and move it. Otherwise, it may go the way of the wrecking ball.

An amazing story. I wait in anticipation for the outcome.

St. Gerard Church | 1190 E. Delavan Avenue | Buffalo, NY 14215 ... at least for now!

PHOTO: Sharon Cantillon/The Buffalo News

Friday, June 12, 2009

New ... Thumbs Up.

The above sketch illustrates the new St. Mark's Church in Huntersville, North Carolina, designed by ecclesiastical architect, Duncan Stroik. To me, Stroik's work can be used as a benchmark for what can be achieved in new ecclesiastical structures.  As Stroik's website states regarding the new St. Mark's Church ... "It is modeled on the broad tradition of CathoFont sizelic architecture in the United States as well as churches dedicated to St. Mark in Venice, Florence and Rome."

Key words ... "BROAD TRADITION".

If you check out the drawings of St. Mark's on Stroik's website, you can't deny the church feels both modern AND traditional. The design is an elegant marriage of modern and traditional aesthetics.

The next time you hear that a church committee is interested in hiring an architect to design their new church ... this is who you should call.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

New ... Thumbs Down.

The above rendering is for the new catholic church of Our Lady of Peace in Grafton, OH. The estimated $3 million dollar, 450-seat sanctuary is scheduled to be finished in 2010. No easy feat considering the many church closings going on around the country.

I'm not digging the new church design. Granted, it's just a rendering. But, color me a traditionalist, it doesn't say catholic church to me. I am going to follow up this posting with another post titled "New ... Thumbs Up". The post will feature an american architect who designs NEW churches that ... well ... look like churches. Specifically, I mean new church designs that use historic forms but are modern in function. It can be done ... and, it can be done well!

I applaud the parishioners of Grafton's Our Lady of Peace for their sacrifice and dedication. I just wish they, and the architects, had borrowed more from the successful past of church architecture, rather than the (more-often-than-not) mediocre present. For some reason, when it comes to church architecture, traditional forms say "stable" to me ... whereas the newer ones seem so "temporary". 

Just my opinion.