Designing Spaces For Religious Experience
“Religion...the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude, so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they may consider the divine.” — William James We consider designing and building for religious communities one of our most important opportunities for putting our skills and experience to work in the service of humanity’s search for meaning and purpose. We have been students of religious structures for a long time, fascinated by the similarities and differences among architectures for the world’s religions. We have designed and built both for congregations and for religious organizations associated with our college and university clients. Our approach to the design of spiritual spaces provides settings that enhance worship and instill a sense of communal pride. Our buildings for the spiritual engagement of a community foster a spirit of curiosity and wonder. They acknowledge the requirements of each religion: the relationship between sacred and secular activities, the importance of meeting the needs of multiple generations, the importance of balancing the individual and the collective, and the power of creating forms that resonate with meanings on multiple levels, forms from which iconographies can grow so as to communicate and teach. More recently, we have begun designing multi-faith buildings and spaces to meet the needs of a pluralistic age in which seekers from different religions can come together to celebrate the rich diversity of each other’s traditions, find common ground in their search for meaning and purpose, and pioneer new ways to share that quest.
West Side Presbyterian Church Ridgewood, NJ
We were struck by the power of what remained after the 2002 fire that destroyed the original West Side Presbyterian Church, and what it suggested. Some walls remained, but no roofs. Space opened to the sky and light filled the scarred interior, inspiring the idea of layering light and creating a sense of praying outdoors. The new church is built of the same stone as the old. While some portions precisely replicate sections of the walls that survived the fire, a new abstract spirit informs the main body of the church. The interior, once dark, is now filled with light that enters through slots between the roof and walls, energizing a sanctuary rotated 90 degrees to overcome previous space limits. Over the new front door, a pergola also brings modulated light into the space. New forums echo and reinterpret old to symbolize this congregationâ€™s renewal and dedication to the future.
Snyder Sanctuary Lynn University
Boca Raton, Florida
The sanctuary serves the spiritual needs of people from all faiths and belief systems, providing a place of refuge and inspiration set apart from the everyday world. It provides the Lynn University community with a place for contemplation, meditation, music, celebration, and dialogue, unaffiliated with traditional religion, where students are encouraged to explore belief and share values. The Snyder Sanctuary design reflects universal spiritual and natural themes, especially the power of a center to gather, of monumentality and light to inspire, and of the beauty of nature to renew and refresh. Every culture and every civilization celebrates humanityâ€™s spiritual nature. The sanctuary brings people of all cultures together to share this common focus and explore where it may take them.
Numen Lumen Multi-Faith Center Elon University
Elon, North Carolina
Working within the existing campus architecture, Newman Architects shaped this new Multi-Faith Center to integrate comfortably. Numen Lumen (from the University motto meaning union of spiritual and intellectual light) welcomes all religions, meeting their needs without fixed symbolism through inspiring universal forms and materials, light, and views of natural beauty. The new center brings campus and town religious communities together, stimulates study of intellectual and spiritual traditions, and promotes greater understanding of world cultures they infuse. It includes main sacred and multi-use gathering spaces that open to each other as well as a complement of ritual-support and teaching spaces, library, and faculty and administrative offices. A prominently located display honors portable icons of user religions when not in use, preserving sacred-space neutrality.
Faith Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church Stamford, CT
For the expansion and renewal of the existing church, we led a collaborative effort involving the Board of Trustees, Deacons, and members of the Congregation in sharing ideas and investigating several alternative schemes for the site. Our initial work involved the development of a Master Plan Study which organized expansion into two major phases and balanced a variety of alternatives. Phase I (now complete) created a new chapel/rehearsal space seating 160, five new classrooms, expansion of offices and support spaces for the Operations Center and Ministries, and expansion and renovation of Fellowship Hall to accommodate 300. Phase II will provide for the expansion of the Mark of Excellence Academy, integrating a media center, a gymnasium, and various offices and meeting rooms. Phase II also suggests an addition to the Sanctuary to expand the capacity by 140 seats.
Saint Teresa of Avila Church Master Plan Church
Our goals in this conceptual planning and zoning process were to provide St. Teresa with the information needed to understand its resources and alternatives, to make informed decisions, and to establish directions and strategies for a thoughtfully planned expansion and improved facility utilization.
expansion, derived from the zoning and parking constraints applicable to the properties of St. Teresa and its neighbors. Obligatory setbacks from streets and wetlands limited the number of possible configurations. Design study discovered the opportunities hidden within these challenges.
2006 Saint Rose of Lima Church & School 2015 Saint Rose of Lima Master Plan & Church Expansion Church & School
Located in Newtown, St. Rose of Lima turned to Newman Architects to conduct a feasibility study and develop alternative options for a phased major expansion of the church, a new gymnasium and cafetorium, and an addition and renovation to the existing K-5 school facilities The Church had become a gathering place for the community to mourn and heal after the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Due to the increased attention, St. Rose also received gifts and donations from the international community. Newman Architects helped St. Rose develop a master plan to expand the existing church to meet new demands and to incorporate these new assets, with the goal of engaging and serving the greater Newtown community more effectively.
Bâ€™Nai Israel Southbury, CT
Because this site occupies rural pastureland of an historic district, we composed barn-like forms picturesquely along a wood-backed ridge, evoking historic precedents. The Synagogue, located 800 feet from the road, reveals itself in stages of detail as one approaches and enters. The program called for the traditional triumvirate of uses: sanctuary, social hall, and school. The plan and operable partitions provide for expansion of the sanctuary for the High Holy Days, without compromising the intimacy and engagement of the congregants in the service when it grows from 150 to 500 people. The overall mass divides into a string of buildings that break the scale and identity into parts. The plan bends to form a â€œnecklaceâ€? on the ridge, forming a private campus space around an existing pond to the rear.
Battell Chapel Yale University
New Haven, Connecticut
This restoration rediscovered and re-established the long-forgotten Russell Sturgis interior of 1876 — once much admired for its gilding, bright stenciling, mosaic tile art, and painted and oiled woodwork — which was painted over in the 1920’s to emulate stone as Yale turned to a Collegiate Gothic style. When the University hired us to renovate Battell’s interior, our initial research yielded clues to the original design hidden underneath that we then restored while adding modern systems, resolving code compliance issues, and redesigning the chancel for contemporary practices as well as performing arts uses. Battell Chapel now accommodates multi-faith services in a setting that serves a diverse religious student body.
Jewish Religious Center and Library Williams College
The Center is a house, a setting for activities that are religious, scholarly and familial. We wanted the students who use the Center to feel at home in their heritage â€” as a place of identity, strength, and support. We also wanted the building itself to look comfortable and welcoming as it expressed its religious, academic and community purpose, to convey the spirit of the Jewish experience. A flexible design allows individual spaces for these activities to merge for accommodating High Holy Day gatherings.
“I consider this Jewish religious building an outward sign of the inward grace that infuses our community; the grace of openness, reconciliation, mutual respect, and appreciation of the richness that our mutually various heritages bring to all of us.” Francis Oakley, President Williams College President
“More than just a good job, Mr. Newman’s work has helped contribute to a sense that the city, through good government, accessibility to the public and through attentiveness to the smaller needs of the citizenry, is indeed making a comeback. . . . Mr. Newman has a great talent for putting his designs in context with our community’s cultural and economic directions. He hears and understands the city’s pulse and heartbeat and, most of all, he cares deeply about our community. Always, the result is a project with grace and vision that is accessible and consumer friendly. We are fortunate to have a man with such vision and talent.” John DeStefano, Jr., Former Mayor, New Haven
“The day the church burned, I was standing in the parking lot and thought, ‘My God. I’ll probably never get to see the new church’... I feel twenty years younger to see all this today.” Barbara Eaton, Church Parishoner West Side Presbyterian Church
“While I have no technical or academic expertise in architecture, I am very closely familiar with a good deal of Mr. Newman’s work, having frequently visited and used-almost inhabited--many of the public spaces that he has designed or helped to build... He has demonstrated insight into the particular human traits and needs likely to be present--insight that involves deep and profound recognition of the interests and activities of those who will use them. He creates space for scholarship and energetic interaction of ideas and personalities, and his gift for this kind of creation springs from his own active engagement in these worlds.” Richard Blumenthal, Senator & Former Attorney General, State of Connecticut
“It is here in the Numen Lumen Pavilion that we will plant the seed for peace and understanding and prepare our students at Elon to be forces for good in the world.” Leo Lambert, President, Elon University
“This inspiring structure will serve as a focal point that will provide an inviting space for anyone looking to connect with their spiritual nature no matter their cultural background,” Kevin Ross, President, Lynn University
Places to Pray
In all societies at all times throughout human history, people have built places in which to connect with the ineffable, the immeasurable, the universal. Wherever people form community, they will create and consecrate these special places of peace, wonder, joy, and awe.
Places to Gather
The lobby and hallway are places of meeting, between people who know each other and people who are strangers. They are places to see and be seen, to choose between observing and joining. They provide opportunities for human interaction, both planned and serendipitous, at the heart of both learning and community formation.
Team Structure An open office environment supports our â€˜studioâ€™ style organization, with staff grouped into teams supporting principals-in-charge to address project challenges in a flexible manner - delivering talent where needed, when needed, with efficiency and effectiveness. We add consultants to the team as each project progresses to provide the right engineering and specialty expertise for the task.
Consensus Building We listen. We meet regularly with stake-holders to gather essential project information and to assist with decision making, building the essential consensus to move the project forward to completion. Our communication and coordination skills achieve success with complex constellations of constituency groups and in demanding regulatory environments.
Building Information Modeling - BIM As early adopters of 3-D Building Information Modeling, we use BIM for all projects, enhancing our ability to offer a variety of project alternatives quickly, to monitor project scope and cost, to improve coordination and reduce conflicts, and to support enhanced project visualization. With MEPF systems coordinated in 3-D, our BIM models have reduced contractor bids, construction clashes during construction and anticipated construction costs.
Integrated Delivery We use our leadership in 3-D design to support the construction process. We are participating in the development of new practices in the delivery of architectural projects, collaborating with construction managers and building owners at all phases of design, bidding, and construction, utilizing BIM as the common platform for communication of intention and realization.
Design Visualization We employ a wide range of powerful visualization methods to help our clients and ourselves understand and test design concepts and alternatives, including: physical and virtual modeling, photo-realistic synthetic imaging and fly-over and tour-though animation.
Public Outreach We have developed an extensive repertoire of skills and tools for helping institutions successfully engage their internal communities, build consensus, present to the public, and obtain community acceptance of proposed projects.
Cost and Schedule Control We maintain control of cost and schedule through a range of tools and processes. We specify the creative use of testing and mockups to verify feasibility and constructability; early setting and periodic review of project schedules together with the use of Microsoft Project scheduling tools; early setting, benchmark testing, and periodic review of budgets; rigorous and regular risk assessment at each project phase; and BIM systems that export detailed information about scope to guide estimating and procurement. We have also gathered extensive experience with alternative procurement and contractdelivery strategies that can speed schedules and reduce cost, including: fast-track documentation, design-build, early enabling projects, and early-purchasing.
Quality Control We employ an arsenal of quality-control techniques, including: a detailed office design and procedures manual; outside code/regulatory reviews; internal third-party document reviews of our work and that of our consultants at each project phase to ensure correctness, coordination, and constructability; coordination with project CMâ€™s in developing and checking documents; and BIM systems that unify project information in single models and greatly reduce opportunities for conflicts.
About Our Firm
Newman Architects PC is a collaborative design firm based in New Haven, Connecticut in the heart of the Yale University Campus. Newmanâ€™s Washington, DC branch office is located in Georgetown, and supports our ability to serve our clients in the Mid-Atlantic region. The quality of our work has been recognized through publication and awards. We have received more than 150 design excellence awards, including awards from the American Institute of Architects, the Boston Society of Architects, and the International Interior Design Association. As architects, we are dedicated to a human-centered design philosophy that seeks ways to contribute to the built environment and make a lasting, beneficial impact on the way people live. We believe that architecture should dignify and enrich the lives of those who experience it. The most enduring architecture accommodates and celebrates those fundamental patterns of human behavior that are immutable - such as the need for human interaction, the need to see and be seen, the need for privacy, and the love of ceremony. We create space for these timeless needs, using the clarity of path and structure, the luminance of natural light, and the humanizing quality of natural materials as elements to honor and accommodate them: places that enhance the quality of life and encourage communication and interaction. As architects we do not work alone and what we create is not due to us alone. It is the work of many, and can never be considered whole without the engaged involvement of those we design with and for. None of us know, when we begin, what the result will be. For everyone, our process and the outcome necessarily involves exploration and discovery.
300 York Street, New Haven, CT 06511 | 203.772.1990 1054 31st Street NW, Suite 140, Washington, DC 20007 | 202.525.2726 www.newmanarchitects.com Â© 2017
Newman Architects considers designing and building for religious communities one of the most important opportunities for putting their skill...
Published on Feb 20, 2019
Newman Architects considers designing and building for religious communities one of the most important opportunities for putting their skill...