Putting a Church to Work - Design Bureau

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Constructing the exposed metal and glass rotunda was a challenge, says Joseph Cano, president and owner of Glass Crafters. Cano provided glass for the project, including the extra-large rotunda panes, which had to be lifted to the third floor by crane. “Our dedicated crew worked above and beyond to make this project come to life,” he says.

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Putting a Church to Work

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

By John F. Rizor
Photos by Emily Gilbert Photography

Worship and work may seem like an unlikely pairing, but the two go perfectly together at the LEED Silver-certified Hillside Square, a historic church turned office space in Montclair, New Jersey. Designed by RHG Architecture and Design, the adaptive reuse project began when a developer purchased the existing church building from the Christian Scientist Membership (CSM) under the agreement that the building would be turned into contemporary office space and a portion would be leased back to CSM for its new chapel.

To maintain and enhance a sense of spirituality within the building, RHG kept historic details where appropriate, reused items harvested from the existing building, and balanced these elements with a fresh aesthetic more in line with the future of the building and its tenants. “When addressing a traditional architectural language, it is ideal to leap toward the minimalist realm. Each piece stands out and stands on its own, and the delineation between the two is clear,” says RHG principal Rachael Grochowski. Many of the existing building’s elements—the pipe organ, lumber, and pediments—reappear in the new architectural scheme, showing reverence for the building history while acknowledging the need to evolve.

Each of the building’s leased spaces was specifically designed for the end user, including CSM’s new chapel space. “The church membership believes in looking to the future, which allowed both the release of ownership of the building and for us to establish a modern design for their chapel,” Grochowski says. Clean lines, coupled with contemporary materials and furnishings, strike a brilliant balance between old and new design elements and bring CSM and its congregation into the 21st century.

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