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ground floor plan (left) 1 Diocese Offices 2 Conference Room 3 Brigid’s Hope 4 New Hope Housing 5 Cathedr al He alth Ministries 6 Compass 7 The Beacon 8 Kitchen 9 Laundry 10 Hygiene Area 11 Storage 12 Parking Garage Entrance

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Second floor Plan (right) 1 Diocese Offices 2 Bishop’s Office

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The John S. Dunn Outreach Center is located on the street level, tucked below the garage, and can be accessed through the courtyard, underneath a covered walkway and past a gurgling fountain, or from the building’s north side. The courtyard entrance is used primarily by the many people who volunteer their time each month. People seeking services enter from the north side of the block where an arcade with ceiling fans provides a shaded place to socialize and rest. The arcade is separated from the public sidewalk by a layer of greenery that encourages each group to feel comfortable in their space. The largest space in the outreach facility is given over to the Beacon, which is equipped with five individual shower rooms, a laundry dropoff, a commercial kitchen, and a large dining space where volunteers serve hot meals. Though designed for durability and heavy use, the architects specified elegant glass wall tile in the shower rooms and colorful, glazed masonry units in the dining space. The two exterior walls of glass provide natural light and a visual connection to the city (which, according to the architects, helps alleviate the sensation of being “trapped”). The Dunn Center also provides separate office and conference spaces for other nonprofits that are autonomous but have varying connections to Christ Church. Services such as mental health counseling, services for women after incarceration, housing, and job training and placement services are all housed in the building and have a direct physical connection to the Beacon, as well as a separate street entrance. While enjoying needed hygiene services and a hot meal, interested clients can be directed to these other services available on site.

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The two-story Diocesan Center is rendered with large expanses of glass shaded by deep horizontal louvers and has a more formal relationship to the courtyard and garden. Most staff offices look out to the street and the buffer-zone gardens that wrap the east and south edges of the block. The entrance foyer has terrazzo floors and a stairway that leads up to the second floor. A large four-sided lantern spills daylight into the entry, stair, landing, and hallways to give the building a light and bright feel. Ceilings are held away from the glass storefront, allowing more filtered natural light to fill the offices. The first-floor conference room and second-floor Bishop’s office have three sides of glass that overlook the serene courtyard and the city skyline beyond. The placement and orientation of the Diocesan Center strikes a balance between the contemplative garden and the active city, which mimics the role of the Diocese as being balanced between internal reflection and civic extension. This award-winning mixed-use project teaches architects about putting together a good building, while the commendable efforts of the client team present a valuable lesson to everyone about how to be a good citizen. The project also demonstrates that refined urban design and committed shareholders are essential components to creating a truly livable city where responsibilities are shared by all citizens for the good of the whole community. Donna Kacmar, AIA, is principal of Architect Works, Inc. and associate professor of the University of Houston’s Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture.

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Texas Architect Sept/Oct 2007: Design Awards  

Texas Architect is the official publication of the Texas Society of Architects, each edition features recently completed projects and other...

Texas Architect Sept/Oct 2007: Design Awards  

Texas Architect is the official publication of the Texas Society of Architects, each edition features recently completed projects and other...