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SACRED SPACES/CIVIC PLACES Congregations in Transition Design Challenge Christ Church Transformation



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Summer 2018 – IN THIS ISSUE Explore how historic sacred places support civic engagement, social cohesion, and neighborhood equity.

FEATURES 12 Research A look at Philadelphia's purpose built sacred places.

16 Local Congregations


The options of congregations in transition.



20 Design Challenge An overview of selected sites, community partners and design teams.

ON THE COVER Congregation Rodeph Shalom | By 2016 Design Awards Gold Medal Winner - Built Category, KieranTimberlake

CONTEXT is published by

AIA Philadelphia

22 Inspired The transformation of the Christ Church Neighborhood House into a year-round space for community activities.

A Chapter of the American Institute of Architects 1218 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107 215-569-3186, The opinions expressed in this – or the representations made by advertisers, including copyrights and warranties, are not those of the editorial staff, publisher, AIA Philadelphia, or AIA Philadelphia’s Board of Directors. All rights reserved. Reproduction in part or whole without written permission is strictly prohibited. Postmaster: send change of address to AIA Philadelphia,

1218 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107 Published JUNE 2018

AIA Philadelphia | context | SUMMER 2018  3

2018 BOARD OF DIRECTORS Karen Blanchard, AIA, President John B. Campbell, AIA, ARIAS, RIBA, LEED AP, President-Elect Troy Hannigan, Assoc. AIA, Treasurer Frank Grauman, FAIA, Past President | Secretary Kelly Vresilovic, AIA, LEED AP, Chapter Director Catherine (Katie) Broh, AIA, LEED AP, Chapter Director 1213 WALNUT

Paul Avazier, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, NCARB, Chapter Director Soha St. Juste, AIA, Chapter Director Sarah Soh, AIA, LEED AP, Chapter Director Robert Shuman, AIA, LEED AP, Chapter Director Stephen Kuttner Potts, AIA, Chapter Director Sherman Aronson, AIA, LEED AP, Chapter Director Erin Roark, AIA, LEED AP, Chapter Director Jeff Goldstein, AIA, Chapter Director



Jeff Pastva, AIA, AIA PA Director Alesa Rubendall, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, PA Director Rich Vilabrera, Jr., Assoc. AIA, Associate Director David Golden, Assoc. AIA, Associate Director Tya Winn, Public Member Rebecca Johnson, Executive Director

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CONTEXT EDITORIAL BOARD CO-CHAIRS Harris M. Steinberg, FAIA, Drexel University Todd Woodward, AIA, SMP Architects

BOARD MEMBERS Wolfram Arendt, AIA, LAYER Architecture William W. Braham, Ph.D., FAIA, University of Pennsylvania David Brownlee, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania C

Jon Coddington, AIA, Drexel University


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Daryn Edwards, AIA, CICADA Architecture Planning


Sally Harrison, AIA, Temple University


Timothy Kerner, AIA, Terra Studio


Elizabeth Miller, Community Design Collaborative



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STAFF Rebecca Johnson, AIA Philadelphia Executive Director Elizabeth Paul, Managing Editor Laurie Churchman, Designlore, Art Director

4  SUMMER 2018 | context | AIA Philadelphia


SACRED PLACES/ CIVIC SPACES Sacred places are ubiquitous. Yet, we are at a critical juncture. The fact that sacred places are at risk isn’t new, however the pace at which they are closing may

ELIZABETH KAY MILLER CONTEXT Editor and Executive Director, Community Design Collaborative

become a crisis for all neighborhoods. In this Collaborative takeover of Context, we are pleased to introduce Sacred Places/ Civic Spaces. This is the next topic of Infill Philadelphia, the proactive communityengaged design initiative of the Community Design Collaborative. Underwritten by the William Penn Foundation, the 18-month series will explore possibilities for underutilized

A. ROBERT JAEGER CONTEXT Editor and President, Partners for Sacred Places

space in historic sacred properties throughout Philadelphia. Our Up Close by Jared Brey, with images from Chris Kendig, gives us a closer look at our partner on this initiative, Bob Jaeger of Partners for Sacred Places. In Philadelphia alone, there are 839 purpose built historic sacred places. The report commissioned by the Philadelphia Research Initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts was published in October 2017. Lessons learned from work with Philadelphia Congregations though and with Partners, Hidden City and Penn Praxis, informs Rachel Hildebrandt's piece on Sacred Places in Transition. She shares thoughts about the future resilience and vulnerability of congregations, buildings, and communities throughout Philadelphia. On June 5, 2018, with the help of an impressive Ad Hoc Committee, the Sacred Places/Civic Spaces Design Challenge was launched. We anounced the three reallife, historic sacred places in Philadelphia neighborhoods to serve as national models. Three sets of community partners and congregations were matched with design teams through a competative process to undertake a community-engaged Design Challenge. The result of their collaborative work will be revealed on December 4, 2018. Former Collaborative Board Member Lee Huang of Econsult Solutions revisits Partners’ HALO Study reminding us of the economic impact active congregations and shared sites can mean for communities and the city at large. Partners for Sacred Places Philadelphia-based work is also a prototype for its national work. Chad Martin highlights the work of local architect - turned congregational client Jim Timberlake and his work to breathe new life into the Neighborhood House of Christ Church in Old City. This precedent and others highlighted in this issue and the Precedent Exhibition recognize the work that congregations already do to serve, stabilize and revitalize communities. We hope we’ve whet your whistle for more conversations about what it means for sacred places to be civic spaces. There are many more perspectives and voices to be heard. Thanks to the William Penn Foundation, we are able to convene a broad network though the Collaborative’s unique brand of proactive and pro bono, communityengaged design. We encourage you to join us as we deploy design as a means to find common ground, pursue innovative new ideas, and work toward equity through the active reuse of underutilized neighborhood assets. n

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COMMUNITY AIA Philadelphia

Hello Friends and Colleagues: Hope you all are enjoying your summer and this special issue of CONTEXT. I’m very proud that the Community Design Collaborative’s important Infill project, Sacred Places/Civic Spaces, spurred the content and thought-provoking articles in this issue. I look forward to partnering with the Collaborative to share the results of this initiative with the design community here in Philadelphia, as well as across the country.


Traffic enforcement. Enhanced technological, data-driven solutions. Better coordination and management. And dollars. These were among the prescriptions offered by speakers at “Stuck in Traffic? What’s Philadelphia Doing to Restore Mobility,” a DAG evening forum held May 8 at the Center for Architecture + Design. Moderator Paul Levy of the Center City District, along with panelists Christopher Puchalsky of the city’s Office of Transportation & Infrastructure Systems, Denise Goren, a transportation planner with WSP and Erik Johanson of SEPTA, discussed the reasons for Center City’s congestion and how it’s not just an inconvenience, but also an indicator both of economic growth and changing transportation choices. They outlined potential solutions and answered questions from the audience. DAG’s Complete Streets Task Force continues to study related topics involving mobility for all transportation modes on Philadelphia’s streets and sidewalks. DAG meets monthly at the Center for Architecture + Design on topics related to planning and design of Philadelphia’s built environment.

Rebecca Johnson Executive Director AIA Philadelphia Center / Architecture + Design

Suggestions? Comments? Questions? Tell us what you think about the latest issue of CONTEXT magazine by emailing context@ A member of the CONTEXT editorial committee will be sure to get back to you.

New this Fall: Forum on Architecture + Design AND DesignPhiladelphia This fall AIA Philadelphia and the Center for Architecture + Design have overlapped their two signature events: The Forum on Architecture + Design AND DesignPhiladelphia – to leverage each others’ audiences and turn the volume up on the content. We are extremely excited to bring exceptional programming and exhibitions to Bok over 10 days this October. The Forum on Architecture and Design is the newly renamed regional conference (formerly Design on the Delaware). The conference has been in transition since we partnered with NeoCon East at the Convention Center–a great collaboration for both organizations but the partnership left us missing a crucial connector in hosting our own exhibit floor. Our attendees told us they wanted the exhibit floor back, so we took a break in 2017 to reorganize and rebrand the conference and to find a location that would allow us to create a dynamic and exciting expo floor while providing exceptional educational programs and tours. I believe we've found that venue this year at Bok in South Philadelphia. Bok is a former vocational technical high school that has been turned into office spaces and studios for creative businesses. We are taking over their two gyms for an expo hall and a curated exhibit gallery, as well as using their 1100 seat auditorium for our keynotes. This year AIA Philadelphia's annual educational event is joining the DesignPhiladelphia festivities at BOK in order to create a platform where makers, fabricators, and designers can meet and exchange ideas with the Greater Philadelphia architecture, engineering, and construction community. Forum attendees can also attend the spectacular DesignPhiladelphia Kick-Off Party on Wednesday, October 3, 2018 as part of their full conference registration and they can experience the awesome Bok Bar rooftop after a long day of learning and networking. Plan to be a part of the action this coming October and stay tuned for email announcements regarding registration opening for the Forum on Architecture and Design.

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SUBMIT YOUR PROJECTS We invite you to participate in the annual Design Awards celebration. The awards recognize the best in architectural design and includes a design competition, divine detail award, exhibition, and awards gala. Submissions are due no later than Friday, August 31, 2018 at 11:59 p.m. Submissions include: • Design Awards Competition - Built Projects • Design Awards Competition - Unbuilt Projects • Design Awards Competition - Divine Detail • Young Architect Award • PEAPrize ATTEND THE GALA The celebration, cocktail style dinner and dessert reception, will be held on Wednesday, November 7, 2018 at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. SPONSORSHIPS AVAILABLE Interested in sponsoring the Design Awards? Contact Member Services & Events Manager, Juli Foley, at or call 215-569-3186, ext. 101.

AIA Philadelphia and the Center for Architecture and Design are teaming up to make it simple for you to participate in our signature events and reach your target audiences. This year AIA Philadelphia's annual educational event, the Forum on Architecture and Design, is joining the DesignPhiladelphia festivities at BOK in order to create a platform where makers, fabricators, and designers can meet and exchange ideas with the Greater Philadelphia architecture, engineering, and construction community. We are asking our local architecture and allied firms to consider participating in this joint venture in the following ways: DESIGN AN INSTALLATION Be on display at Bok from Oct. 3 - Oct. 14, reaching both the Forum audience of A/E/C professionals, as well as the general public and DesignPhiladelphia audience. SHOWCASE A PROJECT Submit a board of project work for the exhibit that will be on display at Bok during DesignPhiladelphia from Oct. 3 - Oct. 14 and at the Center for Architecture and Design from Oct. 15 - Nov. 8. ATTEND THE FORUM This year’s educational event promises to deliver the same high-quality programs and tours as Design on the Delaware, with five exceptional keynotes, dynamic expo floor, curated gallery space of installations and exhibits, as well as, entrance into the DesignPhiladelphia Kick Off Party on Wednesday, Oct. 3rd. EXHIBIT AT THE FORUM The Boys Gym at Bok will be transformed into an Expo Floor during the Forum (Oct. 3-5). The space will host an interactive expo floor with companies like yours exhibiting the newest innovations within their respective fields.

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The 1800 block of the North 54th Street Commercial Corridor received the 2016 Storefront Challenge “Best Bay” Award.

“They say that Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods. But, through my work, I get to see Philly as a city of neighborhood commercial corridors,” says Robin Kohles, AIA, manager of the Community Design Collaborative’s economic development design services. Kohles works closely with the Philadelphia Department of Commerce to bring best design practices to commercial corridor revitalization—and to get people excited about the design opportunities of Philadelphia’s commercial built environment. STOREFRONT FAÇADE IMPROVEMENTS AS A CATALYST The Storefront Improvement Program (SIP) is a mainstay of the City’s commercial corridor revitalization efforts. It offers reimbursable grants of up to $10,000 for a single commercial property and $15,000 for a corner or multipleaddress commercial property. Businesses receive the funding after they complete the façade improvements. SIP can underwrite the costs of improvements like repainting, the restoration of historical features, and the replacement of signage, lighting, windows, and doors. SIP levels the playing field by leveraging the costs of improving storefront façade improvements, especially in sections of the city where the real estate market needs a catalyst. SIP grants often prompt further reinvestment

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by drawing more customers to a corridor or convincing other businesses owners to take the leap. The Collaborative plays a key role in the SIP grantmaking process. Kohles shares her design expertise as a member of Commerce’s SIP review committee. In addition, she enlists Collaborative volunteers to provide conceptual façade design to encourage small business owners to apply for SIP grants. The volunteers work one-to-one with them to set façade improvement priorities and submit stronger design proposals. THE STOREFRONT CHALLENGE The Collaborative and Commerce also co-host the bi-annual Storefront Challenge. This citywide contest recognizes the best in recent storefront façade improvement projects. The Storefront Challenge honors both businesses that have tapped into SIP grants to make improvements and those who have financed their work through private loans and grants. Honorees range from modest improvements, like new signage or the restoration of upper bays, to full-on facelifts. Any storefront in Philadelphia improved within the previous two years is eligible to enter. The 2018 Storefront Challenge will take place on October 10th during DesignPhiladelphia. Says Kohles, “We’ve been recognizing storefronts for

ten years through this contest, so it seemed only right to host this year’s Storefront Challenge on 10/10.” Giana Lawrence, manager of Commerce’s Storefront Improvement Program, says, “Owners get a sense of pride by being recognized for the work they’ve done. Getting an award speaks volumes on the impact of their investment to their business and corridor.” Denis Murphy, director of Commercial Corridor Development for Commerce, adds, “The best part of the event is seeing the diversity of the people and places. The winners represent all corners of the city.” “The event recognizes owners, but it’s for designers too,” Murphy says. “It gets architects thinking about Philadelphia’s storefronts.” Save the date for the 2018 Storefront Challenge on October 10, 2018. Be sure to nominate your favorite Philly storefront facade improvement hero starting in June at

Oct. 3-5 BOK Join us October 3-5, 2018 at Bok in South Philadelphia for The Forum on Architecture + Design! The Forum is the newly rebranded educational and expo event that is replacing the previous Design on the Delaware conference. The Forum is focused on curating multidisciplinary educational content for designers, civic leaders, product manufacturers, technology providers, and real estate developers - all the industries that contribute to shaping our built environment.

Keynote Speakers Toshiko Mori, FAIA Toshiko Mori Architect Toshiko is principal of Toshiko Mori Architect, PLLC and the Robert P. Hubbard Professor in the Practice of Architecture at Harvard University Graduate School of Design, where she was the department chair from ’02- ‘08.

Michael Ford, OMA, Assoc. AIA BrandNu Design / Hip Hop Architecture The creator of the Hip Hop Architecture Camp, an initiative evolved from years of research that began with Ford’s graduate thesis. The camp aims to increase minorities in architecture and urban planning.

Matthew Kreilich, AIA Principal | Snow Kreilich As design principal at Snow Kreilich Architects, Matt provides his design leadership on all the firm’s projects. The firm is AIA’s 2018 Firm Award winner, an honor that recognizes a practice that consistently has produced distinguished architecture for at least 10 years.

Paula Scher Partner | Pentagram Paula is a principal at the distinguished international design consultancy, Pentagram. She has served on the Public Design Commission of the City of New York from 2006-2015 and a recipient of the National Design Award for Communication Design.

Damon Rich Hector 2017 MacArthur Fellow, Damon Rich, is an urban design, planning, and civic arts practitioner. He formerly served as planning director & chief urban designer for Newark, NJ.



In the late 1970s, Bob Jaeger was pursuing an MBA at the University of Michigan when he found his attention beginning to wander. It started with a general interest in stained glass and Tiffany glass, and soon, he says, he was spending a lot of time hunting for old windows, and taking pictures of them. Gradually, he became captivated by the buildings themselves, and the people who occupied them. “Already what was percolating was my real passion, which was not human resources, but architecture and religious architecture,” says Jaeger, the president and co-founder of Partners for Sacred Places, speaking with Context from his office in Center City. Over nearly 30 years, Partners for Sacred Places has become a leading advocate for the preservation of churches, synagogues, and mosques. In that time, the conversation has grown to encompass much more than stained glass and intricate masonry. Studies conducted by Partners for Sacred Places have positioned religious buildings as powerful civic assets, serving communities that are many times greater than their congregations and creating considerable “economic halo” effects in their neighborhoods. And at the same time, the group has served thousands of individual congregations, helping them rethink the assets their buildings provide, and connecting them with art and nonprofit groups for the mutual benefit of both.

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Here, Jaeger talks about his three decades in the field. The interview has been edited for length and clarity. How did you get involved in this work in the first place? Three totally independent efforts to deal with sacred places began around the same period in 1985, in New Mexico, Philadelphia, and New York, unbeknownst to each other. Something was in the water, or something was in the air, and pretty soon we started to find each other and talk to each other. We began to realize that there were some common threats and some common opportunities, and maybe there should be a national entity. So by ‘88, we hosted the first national conference on this issue, called Sacred Trusts. New York was kind of a hotbed of controversy at the time. Church folks and preservationists were often at odds over the fate of important buildings. So New York seemed like a less hospitable place to start a national group, and Philadelphia seemed a little quieter and less divisive. So we started Partners here in 1989. Now, your advocacy includes arguments about civic benefits and economic spillover effects. But at the beginning, was your immediate goal just to preserve beautiful architecture? Some of us came out of preservation, so I think the original motivation was, in large part, to preserve the physical fabric, because it had cultural meaning and artistic beauty and so on. We had a gut sense that it was

UP CLOSE more than that—that it was a community thing, too—but we didn’t know how to fully articulate it or defend it. I think it’s generally felt that a great old building is about more than just the physical thing, although the absolute beauty or rarity of that thing or what it says about its moment in time or its culture is all very powerful. But it’s not sculpture. It’s not like a museum piece which has no other function except to be a beautiful thing to inspire you. This contains things, and it has a place in the environment. But we didn’t have any statistics. We did a really early study funded by Pew back in the late ‘80s where we were trying desperately to find some data to articulate this. And we learned, for example, that one third of all daycare happens in churches, and that most Police Athletic Leagues are in churches. But it was scattered information. I think what helped move us in this direction is the stunning, stark fact that most donors don’t care that much about architecture. That’s not their thing, and religion is certainly not their thing. So you have to relate it to populations that they care about, and neighborhoods, whether it’s seniors, children, the homeless, the hungry, or the arts. And fortunately, these places relate to all that. But it took some time to position ourselves to be persuasive. This is the story with preservation more generally, right? People are talking about sustainability and community value and economic value and all this stuff that is sort of swirling around the thing itself. There’s been a total quantum leap in what we understand the issue to be between 1989 and now. Back then, we were just trying to gather a database and an information center, do conferences and workshops and get known. Build bridges—that was our goal, to build bridges, because there had been so much acrimony. I remember a board meeting in the mid-90s when one of our board members said, what goes on in these places during the week? We know what happens on Sunday morning if it’s a Christian church or on Friday night-Saturday morning if it’s a synagogue. But what happens the rest of the week? And no one knew! I still find that astonishing. No one in the seminary world knew, no one in religious studies knew, no one in preservation knew. So that’s what led to our research that looked at a random sampling of sacred places with older buildings. What we learned—and this is what led us to where we are today—is that 81 percent of the people served by programs housed in those churches are not members. They’re coming from everywhere: Neighbors, kids, the homeless, the hungry. These are de facto community centers. And that’s important, because congregations have shrunk, and they are financially strapped, often. So they need to make a case for help from beyond the congregation. That’s the bottom-line problem we have. Congregations need to tell their story and convince others to care. And the sense is that churches, synagogues, and mosques are as vulnerable as they’ve ever been or moreso. Yes, more than ever. We know how many have closed and been lost. I don’t know if we know year by year, but it’s the general sense that it’s accelerating. Some denominations close en masse, like the Catholic Church, because it’s top-down. The Protestants tend to do it in a little trickle. But it’s all the same, whether it’s 20 at once or one or two a

year. One denomination in New York City said that 80 percent of its churches are going to close. This is why this is really exciting and interesting and terrifying. Huge swaths of our communities are going to be effected, and very few people are really prepared for this or really thinking about it. In an earlier study, we looked at just the value of the space that churches tend to share. Maybe it’s the old Sunday school that’s now daycare or it’s the old parish hall that’s now a dance studio. Now, we’ve added about 45 other factors, including the spending value of the congregation and the magnet effect, that people come to the neighborhood for an event and they spend money, the value of the community development activities it sponsors. Churches often become incubators for small nonprofits that form and grow and then move out. We try to cover everything. And now, we’ve estimated that the overall value is $1.7 million on average for urban churches. And the percentage of people that are benefitting who aren’t members of the church has gone from 81 percent to 87 percent. These places have traditionally housed so much value to a community, and it’s affordable and it’s accessible and it’s welcoming and people trust it. And they’re everywhere! Other kinds of buildings, you find them occasionally, but churches are in every neighborhood. We’re losing them, but for the moment, they’re still everywhere. How else has your advocacy for sacred places changed? There are two levels. There’s the national and regional level, where we’re trying to have a conversation with people in government, people in philanthropy, people in all the civic realms about this civic value thing. And then we have the local level: We have to help congregations themselves understand and embrace this. At the upper level, you might convince agencies and funders to be more open to helping a place transition or stay alive as a civic venture. But in a way, maybe it’s more important for congregations to grasp this and articulate it, and to act differently. My belief is small congregations don’t need to close. That has huge implications for the survival of these great old buildings, but they need a helping hand to learn how to think in new ways about their buildings, including opening them up into the civic plaza—really lowering the barriers and not just having the occasional AA group. We have to model new ways for the community and for the church or synagogue to work together. And if we can encourage new thinking and use and funding and management, more of these places will stay open, which I think is a public good. If you’re completely secular, you might say, who cares? They can become apartments. But the problem is, as they transition, some are demolished. And even when apartments are put in, much of the interior is gone, and all of that public good is gone. All the daycare is gone, all the concerts are gone, all the self-help groups are gone, all the food programs, all of it is gone. The facade may remain intact, but all the other public goods are gone. So I think this is a civic argument. This is the difficult challenge, saying this is really not about religion. n Jared Brey is a development, zoning policy, and city government freelance reporter based in Philadelphia, with work featured in Philadelphia Magazine, Hidden City, PlanPhilly, and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

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Philadelphia is home to a large number and wide variety of buildings that qualify as historic sacred places, which, for The Pew Charitable Trusts’ October 2017 report on the topic, were defined as those constructed as houses of worship before 1965, regardless of whether they are currently used in that way. The research found that 839 historic sacred places were still standing in 2015 and early 2016, one for roughly every 1,900 city residents. And it found the condition of the surviving structures, as judged by systematic examinations of their exteriors, to be mostly good or very good overall. Expensively built, many historic churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples have survived decades of deferred maintenance amid diminishing religious observance to remain architectural, historical, and cultural landmarks—and bulwarks of stability in their neighborhoods. The buildings provide value that goes beyond their importance to the congregations and religious leaders occupying them: Some host outreach programs that serve the needy, the jobless, and the addicted. Others house nonprofit groups, preschools, and even startup businesses. Even so, many congregations are likely to face tough decisions in the years ahead about what to do with their aging buildings, some of which face major and potentially costly repairs to their interiors and operating systems. Possible outcomes include abandonment of the buildings, which could lead to vacancy and deterioration or demolition; takeovers by other congregations; and reuse as schools and apartment buildings or for other purposes.

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The research, led by PennPraxis at the University of Pennsylvania with assistance from Partners for Sacred Places, sought to document Philadelphia’s historic sacred places, to examine the role these buildings play in the city’s public life, and to analyze what factors are likely to determine whether those currently functioning as religious facilities will continue to do so—or face different futures in the years ahead. In addition to cataloging the city’s historic sacred places and their conditions, the research included in-depth examinations of 22 of the

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structures—20 churches, a synagogue, and a Buddhist temple—and interviews with the leaders of their congregations. All were still in religious use, and they were chosen to provide a representative sample of the larger group in terms of geography, architecture, denomination, and how long the congregation had been in existence. The goal was to identify key factors of vulnerability and resilience that will help determine whether the buildings continue to be used for their original purpose or adapted for a new use. (A list of the 22 congregations can be found in Appendix A of the report.)

HOW PHILADELPHIA’S HISTORIC SACRED PLACES ARE USED The vast majority of the city’s 839 historic sacred places—83 percent— remained in religious use at the time of the survey, although nearly half of those were no longer occupied by the buildings’ original congregations; about 10 percent had been adapted for other uses, including housing, offices, and child care centers; and roughly 5 percent of the buildings were vacant. From 2011 to 2015, at least 23 of the city’s historic sacred places were demolished, mostly by developers. FACTORS OF VULNERABILITY There are internal and external challenges facing the congregations that occupy these buildings—not least among them the decline of religious participation in 21st-century America, as documented in a 2015 report by the Pew Research Center. Internal factors of vulnerability were found to include the following: • Poor financial condition. • Poorly maintained buildings. • Building size and configuration. • Ineffective leadership or a poor relationship between the clergy and the membership. • Shrinking or distant congregations. • No sharing of space or other connection to the community. External factors include: • The movement away from piety. • Changing neighborhood quality of life. • Issues related to denominational structure. FACTORS OF RESILIENCE The evidence from the study suggests that financial stability and the leadership abilities of clergy and other decision-makers are the primary elements of resilience.

Internal factors include: • Strong leadership/good laity-clergy relationship. • Financial health/endowment. • Stable building condition. • Adaptability of buildings/mixed use. • Congregational growth and diversity. • Sharing of space/use with civic partners. External factors include: • A stable or gradually improving neighborhood. • Being located in a historic district or listed on a historic register. Of the 839 historic sacred places inventoried, 662 (79 percent) had no form of historic designation. Of the 177 that had such a designation, 71 were listed on both the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places and the National Register of Historic Places, 69 just on the Philadelphia register, and 37 just on the national register. PEW’S CONCLUSION On the whole, Philadelphia’s historic sacred spaces have proved to be remarkably resilient over the years: The structures were built to last, and mostly they have. But as the close-up examination showed, many of the buildings were in need of substantial investment for such items as damaged roofs and ceilings and failing heating and electrical systems. As buildings deteriorate and attendance at religious services shrinks, a significant number of congregations will have to determine what to do with their worship homes in the years ahead. n Larry Eichel directs The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Philadelphia research initiative. This piece was reprinted with permission from Pew’s 2017 report “Philadelphia’s Historic Sacred Places: Their Past, Present, and Future.” To read the full study, visit

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Wharton-Wesley United Methodist Church Sanctuary (Philadelphia)


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A Partners for Sacred Places staff member for nearly seven years, I began as an intern while studying historic preservation at the University of Pennsylvania, and now work as a senior program manager with a focus on research and development within the Philadelphia region -– our headquarters and de facto research and development laboratory. I've supported dozens of projects over the past seven years, including a recent examination of the factors that contribute to congregational vulnerability and resilience. This project, which was funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts and conducted in partnership with PennPraxis, produced an updated citywide inventory of older, purpose-built sacred places and an accompanying narrative that summarized our key research findings. This project afforded me the opportunity to develop a comprehensive understanding of the range of actual and perceived options facing congregations in transition as well as the attitudes and processes surrounding the transition of the buildings themselves. Thus, the following account reflects what I learned. It does not reflect the opinion of The Pew Charitable Trusts. THE PHILADELPHIA STORY Philadelphia’s religious building stock is in transition, due in large part to the declining memberships and resources of many congregations. And — this is crucial — the moment when a building is sold by a congregation or its denominational office to a new user will likely decide its long-term fate. The numbers confirm this. Of the city’s 839 purpose-built religious properties, seventeen percent are no longer in religious use, and half are no longer occupied by the original congregation. And since 2009, at least 30 religious buildings were demolished (2 additional properties, Christian Street Baptist Church and Christ Memorial Reformed Episcopal Church, are slated to be demolished this year). Many if not most of the Mainline Protestant congregations (i.e., Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Lutheran, A.M.E., United Church of Christ and other older Protestant traditions) that have not yet

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Inside of Wharton-Wesley United Methodist Church (Philadelphia)

left the city’s less affluent neighborhoods and transitioned their buildings to congregations of other denominations, are likely to do so in the next three to five years. There is great opportunity to initiate new congregations or new programs at these sites, but most denominational offices lack the capacity to do so. Meanwhile, 'hermit crab congregations,' which took on properties built by congregations of other (typically Mainline Protestant or Roman Catholic) denominations, are struggling to maintain their buildings. Many suffered from deferred maintenance under their original owners. Instead of attempting to restore their buildings with scarce reserves, these congregations are deaccessioning them. This trend is apparent among Roman Catholic-built church complexes that were deaccessioned by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in the early 1990s. My cousin, Patrick Hildebrandt of Philadelphia Church Project, uses tongue-in-cheek phrases such as “North Philadelphia Swath of Destruction” and “The Year of Hell” to describe the period in which Catholic churches in North Philadelphia and West Philadelphia were closed and subsequently sold to independent, mostly African American congregations or aspirational nonprofit organizations. Nearly three decades later, many of these

housing. I also discovered the following about the 22 demolitions: • no instances in which the congregation that originally erected the building (the first occupant) sold to a developer who planned to demolish • 15 instances in which a hermit crab congregation sold to a developer who planned to demolish • three instances in which a congregation resulting from a merger sold to a developer who planned to demolish • three instances in which congregation’s denominational office —which acquired property upon the congregation’s disbandment—sold to a developer who planned to demolish. This data suggests that the length and strength of a congregation’s attachment to its property matters. Attachment substantially affects the building’s outcome. Let’s back up, though. Let’s discuss the reasons that congregations – original occupants and hermit crabs alike – are transitioning their buildings, and the rationale that informs their decision-making processes.

buildings are coming onto the market for a second time. Garden of Prayer Church of God in Christ, located at 28th and Diamond Streets in North Philadelphia, is in this very position. In 1994, the Pentecostal congregation purchased the church and rectory of Most Precious Blood Roman Catholic Church, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Two decades later, the congregation worships in rectory’s parlor while the sanctuary sits empty year round. The congregation hopes to relocate in the near future. Often, hermit crab congregations transition their properties to real estate developers who intend to demolish, clearing the path for new construction. When I examined the twenty-eight demolitions that took place between 2009 and 2016 for Hidden City Philadelphia, I found that of the 28 demolitions, 22 (79 percent) were associated with development pressure; of the 22 demolitions associated with development pressure; and 20 (91 percent) made way for new

Vulnerability and resilience are at the heart of the PennPraxisPartners study. Initially, we aimed to classify congregations as either vulnerable or resilient. It was impossible to do this, however, because any given congregation exhibits signs of both vulnerability and resiliency. A congregation is vulnerable when one or more circumstances open it up to possible closure, merger or relocation. Examples include: • Poor leadership; 
 • Unstable or changing leadership; 
 • Inability to sustain a paid, full-time clergyperson; 
 • A declining trend in membership and giving – and particularly decline in membership; • Significant internal conflict; and/or 
 • An antagonistic relationship with denominational leaders or unsupportive leaders, where applicable.

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When a congregation is facing these realities while also trying to plan and live out a future, preservation of the institution almost always takes precedent over preservation of the building. Different circumstances, including both internal and external factors, can render the building vulnerable. A building is vulnerable when: • The congregation's attitude reflects a desire to preserve the institution at any cost to the building; 
 • There is pressure to sell due to real estate conditions (this is greatly compounded in situations in which the property is not protected by local historic designation); 
 • The present owner is not the original owner/occupant; 
 • Its owner exhibits inability or unwillingness to properly maintain the building; and • Its owner has never retained a professional to assess the condition of the building envelope and systems. Consequently, struggling congregations explore the following options: downsizing into smaller, more manageable properties; merging into other, typically stronger congregations; and closing their doors altogether. They explore each of these options, in that order – hoping, first, to keep the community of worshippers together in familiar surroundings and second, to keep the community together in any location. This ability to respond to hardship and adapt to survive is resilience. Ironically, congregational resilience can render its building vulnerable. Congregations that are not struggling transition their buildings as well. This is especially true of commuter congregations (congregations comprised of congregants that do not live in the vicinity of the church) in communities with strong housing markets. In this context, congregations are aiming to extract the value of their real estate; to simplify congregants’ commutes; and to expand access to parking.

Inside of Wharton-Wesley United Methodist Church Sanctuary (Philadelphia)

A notable example of this occurred in 2015, when New Hope Temple Baptist Church sold its historic, yet unprotected building to a real estate developer who has since replaced it with townhouses. The building, originally home to Union Baptist Church, was where renowned vocalist Marian Anderson first performed and where her vocal talent was cultivated as a teenager (it is a common misperception that Anderson first began singing at Union Baptist Church’s current location at 1910 Fitzwater Street, where the congregation moved in 1916 when she was 19 years old). New Hope Temple Baptist Church has since relocated to Germantown, where it purchased a historic Episcopal church. LOOKING FORWARD It is likely that unprecedented numbers of religious buildings will be transitioned out of religious use in the years to come. Many of the buildings that close will be demolished, and many will be converted for residential use. In either scenario, the loss will be significant, resonating across the community. At the same time, these insights give the design community an opportunity to reflect on reuse models past and present, and to create new models in which historic sacred places can be shared and transformed in ways that contribute to a sense of community. n

Rachel Hildebrant is a Senior Program Manager for Partners for Sacred Places.

Inside of Wharton-Wesley United Methodist Church Sanctuary (Philadelphia)

AIA Philadelphia | context | SUMMER 2018  19



01 BUILDING BLOCKS 4700 Wyalusing Avenue | Mill Creek The Philadelphia Masjid COMMUNITY PARTNER: People's Emergency Center DESIGN PARTNER: HOK


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Three sites were chosen from sixteen original applicants, each of whom chose a community based nonprofit as a project partner. These partnerships help strengthen relationships between sacred places, community organizations, and service providers with a mutual interest in co-location. Three design teams have been chosen through a blind selection process from a pool of thirteen outstanding candidate firms, and matched up with the final sites. Together these teams will embark on a six-month design challenge. The multidisciplinary design teams will create innovative design and development concepts, co-designed in collaboration with congregations and surrounding communities. An invitation-only Mid Review will take place in early October, a Public Reveal will take place on December 4th and a Capstone Exhibition and Publication will be released in the Spring of 2019. The initiative is funded by the WIlliam Penn Foundation. n


02 COMMUNITY CORNERSTONE 5341 Catherine Street | Cobbs Creek Wharton-Wesley United Methodist Church COMMUNITY PARTNER: ACHIEVEability DESIGN PARTNER: Brawer & Hauptman Architects



3600/3601 N. Broad Street | Nicetown-Tioga Zion Baptist Church COMMUNITY PARTNER: Called to Serve CDC DESIGN PARTNER: Studio 6mm

AIA Philadelphia | context | SUMMER 2018  21

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The transformation of Christ Church’s Neighborhood House in Old City powerfully exemplifies the aims of the Sacred Places/Civic Spaces project. The central premise of the project, “That underutilized space in historic sacred properties throughout Philadelphia can be activated in ways that expand the civic commons, serve a larger secular purpose, and strengthen communities,” is clearly exemplified in design sensibilities, program practices, and values of the parish. I recently had the opportunity to talk about Christ Church with architect James Timberlake, founding partner at KieranTimberlake, Rector Tim Safford, Barbara Hogue, Executive Director of the Christ Church Preservation Trust, and Daniela Holt Voith, founding principal at Voith and Mactavish. We discussed the church’s work to enliven the building via the arts and open it to the larger community. Design played a very important role in this transformation, making the entrance transparent and welcoming and providing easy access to the entire space for artists and community residents. Today the Neighborhood House is utilized throughout the year for rehearsal and performance space by an eclectic mix of arts groups, and is typically bustling with community activities. Some years more than 150 performance events have taken place there. Philadelphia Fringe Festival, First Person Arts, Pig Iron Theater, and Tempesta di Mare have produced works in the gymnasium-turned-theater on the fourth floor. Meanwhile the Great Hall on the third floor is often occupied by community groups, 12-step programs, and social service agencies. A couple years ago Christ

Church Preservation Trust also took over management of the weekly farmer’s market on the nearby lawn. Add to this the hundreds of thousands of annual tourists visiting the church and burial grounds, and Christ Church is generally bustling everyday. Given this, one could forget what a different place the Neighborhood House was little more than a decade ago. But Timberlake remembers this transformation better than most. It’s not just that he is a member of the parish or that he provided vital leadership to the project. He has been hanging out at Neighborhood House since he first came to Philadelphia for graduate school in the 1970s, including playing basketball in the old gym. As Timberlake recalls: “[Neighborhood House] was one of those sort of jewelry boxes where you lost the key in a way. You lost the key a hundred years ago or more… It looked beautiful on the outside and everybody knew it was kind of useful. But it was one of those jewelry boxes you can’t really use.” Neighborhood House was built to function as a civic gathering space beginning nearly a century ago. According to Safford, the name Neighborhood House was intentional. In contrast with the more typical “parish house” moniker, this name conveyed clearly that it was built to serve the needs of families nearby who worked in the factories and had little space for recreation – a place for the neighborhood. Years later as Old City became home to a growing arts community, Christ Church

AIA Philadelphia | context | SUMMER 2018  23

began opening its doors for performances. But without an elevator, air conditioning, or sufficient restrooms, the building remained underutilized. So Christ Church set out to update the space, asking Voith & Mactavish Architects to provide the key to unlocking this gem. Ms. Voith’s team designed a connector between the Neighborhood House and a historic residence next door, filling in what had been a small courtyard. The connector houses an elevator to all floors of both buildings (vital to the 4th-floor performance venue), provides space for restrooms and gathering, and created a new, more transparent and welcoming main entrance. And the street-facing entrance is all glass from ground level to roofline, introducing a modern touch and a flood of natural light into all levels of the building, literally opening up the building to the green spaces and courtyards on the north and south sides of the main church building. The ease with which the Neighborhood House and residential buildings have been physically knit together belies how complicated the project was. As Voith explains, “We were trying to unify two buildings with different scales and finishes. We wanted to draw attention to the entrance without competing with the two historical structures.” Then there was the functional challenge of a top floor that was a 1930s addition to the Neighborhood House, a second floor with exceptionally high ceilings, and interstitial floors all needing to be connected to the residential scale of the secondary building. Add to that the challenges of building in a small space between two historic structures—the foundation had to be dug by hand—and it made for what Voith calls, “One of the tiniest, most complicated projects we’ve done.”

But the hard work and nimble design has paid off. Reflecting on how the project has enhanced the use of the space over the last decade, Timberlake observes: It’s light-filled most of the day… At night when there are services going on and when there are programs going on at the Neighborhood House, that space is a kind of lit beacon to those who are arriving… [When] crossing the street to this… new entry hall and the elevator— transforming the whole parish from youngster to aging senior, and the disabled for that matter... I could make an argument that if we’d done that strategy any other way than to make that entrance there, that it wouldn’t have made the same difference that it has over the last twelve years. Safford elaborates on how the design has enhanced the mission of the parish. When we reimagined the Neighborhood House, to make it accessible, it changed the way we see everything… Prior to this it was almost like Neighborhood House was not part of Christ Church… By reorienting it… it became much more accessible to the entrance (of the historic church building). In remaking [Neighborhood House] so it can serve the community better, it made us much more aware that all of this is meant to serve the community. Whereas previously one could arguably divide the complex into two distinct spaces for two distinct purposes—Christ Church for the sacred, and Neighborhood House for the civic—now the relationship is much more synergistic and interconnected. With a decade of hindsight, after years of expanded programming taking place in the building, one can see how vital a commitment to thoughtful design was to this communitybuilding purpose. Here the desire for a more inviting entrance was at least as important to the success of the design as the functional need for a more accessible space. Had the later been the overriding consideration, a quieter approach could have been taken to incorporate an elevator near the original entrance at the corner of the building.


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Instead the bold entrance guests have enjoyed for the last decade invites people inside with a glass and steel modern facade distinct but thoughtfully connected to the historic buildings. And the glow of interior light that pours out when evening programs are underway upstairs illumines the way to enter. “That sense of light and air are really important,” Voith underscores. “Pulling in the views [from inside the upper floors of the new space] and connecting to the city was important.” This inviting space has facilitated ease of movement functionally as well as metaphorically. Now parish members more frequently use the Neighborhood House for church activities. And increasingly the historic sanctuary building is used for arts programming. The whole campus more fluidly shifts between sacred and civic functions, contributing to how Christ Church has been activated to expand the civic commons in recent years. Thoughtful design of built spaces informed and aligned with parish and organizational mission and core values has been critical to this expansion. Safford points out that performance events have taken place in the church’s archive, the burial ground, and the sanctuary itself—not just in the dedicated performance space. “From the church’s perspective it’s all just Christ Church,” yet he is quick to add, “One of the things we’ve done smartly is not put church people in charge”—meaning the arts and community programming. “In a sense [these activities speak] back to the church about what it needs to become.”

The artful design of the space opened new possibilities in recent years. But the success of programming at Christ Church has also come from an ethos of openness, curiosity, and dedication to community benefit on the part of staff, artists and patrons alike. As Barbara Hogue says, “One of the main things artists will say about why they come back [to Neighborhood House] is because it really is a community space. There is no gate-keeper.” This spirit of community partnership and openness underscores the fact that even highly utilized sacred spaces can—with a mix of innovative design and savvy leadership—be more fully activated to expand the civic commons and serve community benefit. The most recent project by Christ Church is a fitting example. Recently the church installed a new pipe organ, in conjunction with a project to stabilize the iconic steeple. Based in part on lessons learned at the Neighborhood House, from the onset the parish asked, in Safford’s words, “How do we make it not just an organ for the church, but also for the arts community?” This led to a grant from the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage to commission a new work from the New York-based International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE). The piece, inspired by the nearly three centuries of life at Christ Church, will employ a variety of place-based instruments and technologies, and will have the audience traversing the entire grounds— including part of Independence National Historic Park. “We’ve built a public organ,” Safford concludes. “We could have built a church organ, but we built a public organ.” Guided by this vision and sentiment, the civic realm stretches across both sides of this little stretch of North American Street, serving the civic good of Philadelphia now and into the future. n Chad Martin is the Director of the National Fund at Partners for Sacred Places.

AIA Philadelphia | context | SUMMER 2018  25

In Front of Philadelphia Masjid Sister Clara Muhammad School



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OPINION Philadelphia is an old city. Which means we have a lot of buildings from a lot of different architectural eras. Some have been lost forever. Some are crumbling. Others have been beautifully maintained. Together, they are more than what the city looks like physically. Rather, they are the fabric, character, and spirit of this great city. There is something particularly special about our historic religious buildings. Consider the purposes behind their design. Upward, to give glory to and establish connection with the divine. Inward, to serve as a hallowed space for a particular group to gather. And outward, to express to and invite in the outside world. These are honorable uses that are good for our soul because of what they point to and represent. So historic sacred places matter. We inherently accept their worth. So why do we have to assign an economic value to them? Doesn’t it feel unseemly to do so? Ah, but making the economic case for historic religious buildings is an important part of allowing those structures to fulfill their initially intended purposes, as well as of making possible their preservation for our enjoyment and our city’s edification. One definition of economics is that it concerns itself with the optimal allocation of scarce resources for the greatest good. In a living and breathing city, which contains lots of people who have different preferences, we can all agree on the “scarce resources” part but we don’t always share the same perspective when it comes to “optimal allocation” or “greatest good.” For example, you can have a willing buyer and a willing seller who are ready to transact on a property, or an owner who has a plan for a site and sufficient resources to carry out that plan, and yet there are many other parties who have a stake and who therefore want to weigh in on that transaction or plan: immediate neighbors, preservation advocates, economic developers, municipal government, and so on. And so part of making the case for preservation of historic religious buildings is economic: what value is produced – to the owner, to the community, and to the city as a whole – when a structure is preserved? To answer that question, I commend to you “The Economic Halo Effect of Historic Sacred Places,” a report written by Partners for Sacred Places which estimated the value produced by historic religious buildings in Chicago, Fort Worth, and Philadelphia. That halo effect adds up to an average of $1.7 million in economic value per congregation, and comes in many forms: • Historic sacred places were used to care for and educate local kids • Historic sacred places hosted numerous social services, including therapy, marriage counseling, and tutoring • Many congregations took on roles similar to that of community development corporations, such as job training, economic development projects, and affordable housing provision

Congregations invested in recreational amenities that were available to the broader community, such as green space and playground equipment • Congregations activated volunteer labor to provide a wide range of services to the local community • Historic religious buildings hosted a wide range of events that drew people into the area to enrich the immediate local economy in a variety of spending categories (e.g. food, retail, gas) Looking ahead, older post-industrial cities like Philadelphia are all contemplating how to adapt and grow, and how to do so in ways that are as equitable as possible in terms of the distribution of the benefits of adaptation and growth. To be sure, change is hard, but it is necessary, because the world moves fast and the alternative to adapting is getting left behind. And, to be sure, growth can be scary, but grow we must, for public sector costs are rising whether we grow or not, so the alternative to growing our base is either raising our taxes or cutting our services. So the question is not whether to adapt and grow or not, but how to do so in ways that are effective and that are equitable. Easier said than done. But one thing’s for sure: preservation of historic religious buildings must be part of the plan. Here’s two reasons why. First, we know that what people want is real, authentic places, places with history and character and soul. I am no longer envious of newer cities that have experienced recent growth, because I no longer think their future is very bright. Rather, where growth wants to be is in places like Philadelphia. But how can Philly be Philly if what makes it so is eroded or eliminated? Preservation of historic sacred places is what makes Philly the kind of place I am bullish about in terms of producing and attracting growth. Second, I may be one of the most cold-blooded capitalists around, yet even I acknowledge that there are limits to markets. Markets can accomplish a lot of things, including spur growth. But they cannot by themselves ensure that that growth leaves no one behind. That’s where congregations in historic religious buildings come in. They are anchored in history and in the divine. And they exist in part to serve others, to “be a good neighbor,” and to pay particular attention to those who are neglected and downtrodden. We need to save our historic sacred places because they are part of the soul of the city. n Lee Huang, is a Senior Vice President and Principal of Econsult Solutions.

AIA Philadelphia | context | SUMMER 2018  27



More than 200 advocates for Philadelphia's sacred spaces joined the Community Design Collaborative and Partners for Sacred Places to launch Sacred Places/Civic Spaces on June 5th, 2018 with the Design Challenge Launch and the Precedent Exhibition Opening. The event featured The Reverend Timothy Safford of Christ Church in Philadelphia. Heidi Segall Levy and Rachel Hildebrandt introduced the sites, congregations, community partners and announced the design team matches. The Community Design Collaborative and Partners for Sacred Places asked the design community to share best practices in positioning purpose-built sacred places as community hubs. These projects – built, in-progress, or yet-to-be-built – begin to demonstrate how underutilized space in purpose-built sacred places can be activated in ways that expand the civic commons and strengthen communities. The eight projects that follow are representative of the 23 precedents on exhibition at the Center for Architecture and Design, June 1 - July 31, 2018.

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Atkin Olshin Schade Architects

Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church is a 3500-member community church known for its preaching, teaching and music ministries. The magnificent sanctuary is regularly the site of musical vespers educational forums, in addition to worship services. Our sanctuary renovation features acoustic, mechanical and aesthetic improvements to enhance the activities in the existing 1927 structure. n

PROJECT: Multiple Renovations & Restorations LOCATION: Bryn Mawr, PA CLIENT: Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church PROJECT COMPLETED: 2003 PROJECT TEAM: CVM (Structural Engineer) Levine & Co. (Roofing Consultant)



Bailey Edward

PROJECT: First United Methodist Church Renovation and Restoration LOCATION: Chicago, IL CLIENT: First United Methodist Church

Built in 1924, First United Methodist Church (FUMC) is a community staple located on the main floor of a 24-story high-rise in downtown Chicago. The sanctuary required updates to accommodate the changing needs of the congregation and to increase community outreach while honoring its historic character. Moreover, the lower level Pierce Hall, held the opportunity to become a shared, multifunctional community space. n


AIA Philadelphia | context | SUMMER 2018  29


BWA Architecture + Planning PHOTOS: DON PEARSE

Connelly House was built where there once stood an underutilized older structure which housed a CYO and parish offices. The site sits at the interior of a block at the rear of the Gothic Revival St. John the Evangelist Chruch and rectory. Served only by narrow back streets, the area was often favored by the homeless who chose to sleep outside and avail themselves of anyhting the church might provide. n

PROJECT: Connelly House LOCATION: Philadelphia, PA CLIENT: Project HOME, Bethesda Project, Archdiocese of Philadelphia PROJECT COMPLETED: 2013 PROJECT TEAM: Bruce E. Brooks & Associates (Mechanical, Engineering, Plumbing) Hunt Engineering (Structural and Civil) ReVision (LEED & Sustainability)


Blackney Hayes

St. Raymond’s House is located at 7919 Forrest Avenue in the Cedarbrook neighborhood of Philadelphia. The building was built in 1953 and is a three-story, low-rise, 16,600 square foot former vacant convent of the active St. Raymond of Penafort parish that has been rehabilitated and converted into permanent supportive housing with 27 single room occupancy (SRO) rental units. n


PROJECT TEAM: Domus Construction (General Contractor) MacIntosh Engineering (Structural Engineer) Community Ventures (Developer)

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Converse Winkler Architecture LLC

Overbrook Presbyterian Church is an example of ongoing efforts by a church community to make better use of their facilities in support of their surrounding community as well as to assist in the restoration and maintenance of their historic building. n

PROJECT: Overbrook Presbyterian Church - An Anchor at the Crossroads LOCATION: Bala Cynwyd, PA PHOTOS: JEFFREY TOTARO

CLIENT: Overbrook Presbyterian Church PROJECT COMPLETED: 2015 PROJECT TEAM: Overbrook Presbyterian Church Property Committee Converse Winkler Architecture (Masterplanning, Design and Documentation, Construction Administration)


Kelly/Maiello Inc. Architects and Planners PROJECT: Evaluating Opportunities for Shared Use of Religious Properties LOCATION: Philadelphia, PA CLIENT: Preservation Alliance of Philadelphia PROJECT COMPLETED: 2013 PROJECT TEAM: Kelly/Maiello Inc Urban Planners


The case study for the historic Union Baptist Church at 1910 Fitzwater Street resulted in three potential uses. One was to use the lower level of the church for daycare/after school programming. Another to develop new residential units on lots owned by the church, and the last was to use the main sanctuary of the church as a performing arts venue. The historic Wesley AME Zion Church, located at 1500 Lombard Street, was also studied. Concepts included leasing portions of the church for youth/adult programming, converting part of the church to housing, and using the main sanctuary as a performing arts venue. n

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32  SUMMER 2018 | context | AIA Philadelphia



Continuum Architecture & Design In 2015, structural engineering firm Larsen & Landis chose this former 2nd Spiritualist Church in Fishtown as the new home for their offices. The firm worked with Continuum Architecture on the adaptive reuse and renovated the space themselves. Hidden City interviewed the late Eric Larsen about the project in 2016. He said, “I love old buildings, their character and history. This building is far from the cookie cutter designs that are infiltrating the neighborhood.” Larsen, a structural engineer, expert in historic structures, and longtime Collaborative volunteer passed away in 2017. n

PROJECT: Spiritualist Church LOCATION: Philadelphia, PA CLIENT: Larsen & Landis Structural Engineers PROJECT COMPLETED: 2016 PROJECT TEAM: Larsen & Landis (Structural Engineer) J+M Engineering (Mechanical, Engineering, Plumbing)


Mark B. Thompson Associates LLC


At the outset of the new millennia, following nearly five decades of declining membership, Arch Street Presbyterian Church entered into development discussions with the Comcast Corporation concerning Comcast’s interest in creating a new tower immediately to the east of the church. These discussions led to a development project in which Comcast was able to convert Cuthbert Street, the Church’s service access, into a pedestrian walkway in exchange for its development on the walkway of a new entrance pavilion for the church. Known as St. David's Chapel and Entrance Plaza. n

PROJECT: Arch Street Presbyterian Church LOCATION: Philadelphia, PA CLIENT: Arch Street Presbyterian PROJECT COMPLETED: 2017

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Context Summer 2018  

This issue of Context explores how historic sacred places support civic engagement, social cohesion, and neighborhood equity.

Context Summer 2018  

This issue of Context explores how historic sacred places support civic engagement, social cohesion, and neighborhood equity.

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