Saint Nicholas Eastern Orthodox Church

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Saint Nicholas Eastern Orthodox Church | Notes of Interest

Saint Nicholas Eastern Orthodox Church is the result of a transformation of an existing metal shop building into a sanctuary and fellowship hall. The original structure is clad in a new skin, obscuring and refining the original gabled form. Although a small structure, its bold form makes it visible and recognizable from the nearby interstate.

The interior vertical surfaces are considered neutral with limited articulation, but the horizontal surfaces are expressive, revealing priorities and hierarchies. In the fellowship hall, the original concrete slab and the roof structure of the metal shop building are exposed, revealing the origins of the building. The narthex ceiling gradually descends above a floor of rift-cut oak, and a sky-lit tower marks the entry to the sanctuary. The oak floor continues into the worship space, while a dome hovers above the parishioners. The dome, a key feature of the interior, is an innovative reuse of an abandoned satellite dish resurfaced with a plaster finish.

At the east end of the structure a 30-foot-wide transom of translucent glass bathes the sanctuary in soft light for Sunday morning services. The iconostasis is the one vertical surface that is articulated in great detail, featuring hand-painted, gilded icons, representative of the separation of heaven and earth. The southern wall of the sanctuary opens to accommodate additional visitors at holiday services.

This project—an aggressive adaptive reuse of a utilitarian shop building into a worship space—survived numerous calls to demolish the building. By keeping the original structure, roof, and most of the exterior cladding intact, the conversion process generated very little waste and allowed for a larger facility than the budget would otherwise have afforded.

Additional Credit

  • Engineer – Civil: Bates & Associates
  • Engineer – Structural: Myers Beatty Engineering, Inc.
  • General Contractor: Lourie Construction LLC

Photo Credit

    © Timothy Hursley
    © Marlon Blackwell Architect

Saint Nicholas Eastern Orthodox Church

Jury Comments

This transformation of a humble former welding shop into an elegant work of religious architecture is an inspiring example for our profession and especially for small practitioners.

The project makes the most with the least, displaying deep resource efficiency as an integral part of its design ethos—something more architects should be thinking about and practicing.

The continued development of flexible space by creating a maneuverable wall between the worship and fellowship spaces is great.

The ability to maintain the sacredness of the space with strategic use of color and light is inspiring.

More about Saint Nicholas Eastern Orthodox Church.

2013 Institute Honor Awards for Architecture Jury

  • Mary Katherine Lanzillotta, FAIA (Chair)
  • Hartman-Cox Architects, Washington, DC
  • Brian Fitzsimmons, AIA
  • Fitzsimmons Architects, Oklahoma City
  • John Kane, FAIA
  • Architekton, Tempe, Arizona
  • William Leddy, FAIA
  • Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects, San Francisco
  • Philip Loheed, AIA
  • BTA Architects, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Robert Maschke, AIA
  • robert maschke ARCHITECTS inc., Cleveland
  • Douglas L. Milburn, Assoc. AIA
  • Isaksen Glerum Wachter LLC, Urbana, Illinois
  • Becky Joyce Yannes, AIAS Representative
  • Drexel University, Philadelphia

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