WFM Staff · October 3, 2012
Before renovation, the sanctuary at the Chinese Community Church in Washington, D.C., was dark, cramped and failed to meet the needs of its multigenerational, multi-ethnic congregation. Bringing the church into the 21st century required a comprehensive interior renovation, including stabilization of the structure, thermal insulation, HVAC systems, state-of-the-art audiovisual and lighting systems, finishes and restoration of historic details. A team at local Rippeteau Architects was charged with the preservation project.
Side balconies were removed to expose historic 17-foot stained glass windows. The rear balcony was preserved, a lounge was enclosed for families with young children, and booths were created for the translation of services into other languages. In addition, the chancel was expanded to incorporate a raised platform for a contemporary band and a traditional choir. Acoustics were carefully considered, as well: The chancel walls and ceiling are floating panels at optimal angles for sound projection, the balcony rail is angled back to control reverberation, and rounded pilasters—concealing ductwork—improve sound distribution.
As a result, Rippeteau Architects representatives report that the sanctuary has been transformed into a bright, airy place that respects original details while meeting the modern needs of the diverse congregation.
The church was originally constructed in the 1850s by the Architect of the Capitol, Thomas U. Walter, and has been featured in Preservation magazine. Rippeteau Architects reports that the project is an excellent example of bringing a tired building back to life by using innovative insulation systems, state-of-the-art audiovisual and lighting systems, and clever architectural design.