The new home of ChristChurch Presbyterian Atlanta is at a prominent corner on Peachtree Street, the main north-south thoroughfare through the city. The front side of the site is narrow, but the south side has a long exposure onto the main road because the adjacent building is set back. These features, together with the opportunity to create a public open space at the corner, provided a way to give this relatively small building a big presence. It now acts as a gateway between two districts in the city.
The congregation sought to:
1. Create a new church with an urban character that is welcoming and approachable in order to support the church's mission of outreach to the diverse community it serves.
2. Make a flexible sanctuary for 925 worshippers that could accommodate large gatherings as well as worship services.
3. Satiy a complex program, which includes an art gallery, 21 children's and youth classrooms, four adult classrooms, offices, and a public café.
A nondescript 1960s office building had occupied the site. Following preliminary design and cost studies that investigated clearing the site, the final design retained part of the existing building for the classroom component of the program and entirely wrapped it with new additions.
The core of the project is an intimate light-filled multi-purpose sanctuary with an amphitheatre configuration, which is expressed on the exterior as a separate form that rises out of the main roof. The sanctuary has a dais that is carefully designed to express a balance between preaching and music-making, both of which are crucial components in the worship of this congregation.
Renovation and Addition (ChristChurch Presbyterian)
Project Size: 801-2000 seats
Completion Date: November 1, 2014
A simple abstract cross is the focus of the space, with the pastor at the lectern prominent at the dais. Placement of the grand piano acknowledges the choir master's role. Large-scale performances and other big gatherings, such as the annual dinner, can also be accommodated in the Sanctuary. The sanctuary has a shallow wrap-around balcony designed to enhance a sense of intimacy for all worshippers. A full audio-visual installation is carefully integrated into the design so as not to be obtrusive to the spirituality of the space. For example, special wall treatments are used for the projection screens so that these surfaces become part of the wall behind the dais.
To enable different functions to take place in the sanctuary, its floor is flat and the seating movable; sight lines were therefore carefully studied to avoid blocked views from all seats. The acoustical design allows for the unamplified voice and music to be heard clearly, enabling both traditional and contemporary worship to work equally well in the space. Electro-chromatic glass is used in the large clerestory windows for the control of the daylight that floods the interior.
In keeping with the outreach mission of the church, an important feature are interior windows that open up the sanctuary directly to the street. On the inside, the sanctuary opens onto an art gallery and lobby that extend the full length of the building, which ends in a dramatic two-story space with an open stair linking the different levels. This "long gallery" has become a popular place for the congregation to gather informally before and after services, a crucial requirement of the program.
About half the floor area is dedicated to separate classroom suites for babies and toddlers, children, teenagers and adults all with flexible spaces and AV installations. A full-service kitchen serves a fellowship hall that doubles as two adult classrooms.
At Peachtree Street is a new pavilion with a cross tower, which houses parish offices and a ground-level café with outdoor seating. A new courtyard entry is created at the corner as a transition from the busy street to the contemplative character of the church. Reinforcing the desire for a modern non-traditional feel for the church, the exterior is clad in large-scale porcelain tile from Italy, which is set in a bold pattern of light and dark. The tile is laid horizontally and is interrupted by a rhythm of vertical slot windows and accent tile shapes. The subtle stone-like texture and colors of the tile expresses the urbanity that was desired by the congregation and gives a solidity and permanence to the church with a light modern touch. The result is a striking new addition to the Atlanta streetscape.
The design was done by Gertler & Wente Architects of New York in collaboration with Tunnell Spangler Walsh Associates of Atlanta. The gross floor area is 54,750 square feet, the construction cost was $9.4 million, and the project was completed November 2014.