Architype Dialogue presents
What was the most difficult issue about working on a building that focuses on religion, or the most unexpected challenge that may have influenced new thought in your project?
Interestingly, the most unexpected requirement from the church related to seating. The church already had a traditional chapel with a center aisle and pews on each side. What they wanted in a new sanctuary was a break from that tradition, a fairly bold request. The reason was due to the demographics of the congregation which had changed rather dramatically to include a lot more young families and college age members. In response, the new design has an asymmetrical seating arrangement. To accomplish this, the east west brick walls that enclose the church are slightly curved in plan and placed so as not to create an axis. This allowed for less formal seating. Rather than having an altar, the space has become more of a stage that can accommodate music, dance and plays, as well as worship activities.
Did this project expand or evolve your role as an architect in any way? In general, do you feel that the role of the architect is changing on current projects?
I do think that architects roles are changing on some kinds of projects, where complexity requires a team of consultants. That is not the case here. In fact, I think the traditional role of the architect designer works quite well where direct communication with a large group is required. The architect really needs to communicate rather directly to get the design idea right.
How is your design aesthetic possible today in a way that it may not have been before and how have trends in technology and society inspired new thought and solutions?
The Miller/Hull Partnership was chosen by the church because of our design aesthetic, especially how it relates to natural light, structural expression, and materials. Even though the trend in new buildings is towards automated control systems, this building is not like that. The building needs to be adjusted for natural light control and heat gain protection, and even needs to have ‘black-out’ capabilities when movies are shown. One 30 foot tall door at the stage allows for simple aperture controls in an elegant way. The back lit quality of the cross can be modified from full daylight to all electrical lighting and the adjacent city street can be screened when needed, but left open to public view when passing by. Technology enhances and extends the impact of our designs.
In the context of this project, how is your office and design process being influenced by current trends in academic curricula and incoming young architects? In turn, how are current projects and processes guiding the ongoing reformulation and development of academic curricula?
Incoming staff knowledgeable about current trends in academic design curricula have been especially helpful to us, and enabled us to more readily include new graduates and interns into our work. The firm relies heavily on computer simulations for lighting, heat gain and shading studies, which obviously has wide implications for projects throughout the office. Above and beyond technical skills and design knowledge, we now also expect that new incoming architects to have a good basic understanding of sustainable and energy efficient design.