OF SAN FRANCISCO United Church of Christ
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This is Part 3 of the story that explains how we designed our proposed new Building -- Building 5. This part details the building features. The decision to build a new building is described in Part 1. Part 2 explains the decision to build our new building. The evolution of Building 5 represents an interesting recent history of the power of God working through us to make decisions about our future.
Part 1: Moving the Congregation
Part 2: Defining our New Home
The building design provides a symbolic feel as a "village church". The design is in warm colors -- evoking the church as a welcoming, sacred building and a hub for the neighborhood.
The Variable Bricks. The building is surrounded by bricks of different shapes and colors. The variation is akin to us as humans -- of different sizes, colors and shapes -- which together provide an enduring symbol of God's extravagant welcome to all persons.
The Floating Roof. Our Sanctuary space has been placed to the Polk/Bush corner of the lot and presents a strong statement of who we are and what we value. The space is topped with a sheltering roof structure that is bisected with skylight strips. It appears to float above the sanctuary with the use of wide clerestory windows just under the roof and surrounding the entire sanctuary. This provides daytime worshippers with abundant natural light, and is a dramatic exterior feature for evening events. The overhanging roof design gives a sense of home and shelter on this busy corner.
Integration with the Street. The main entrance is at the Polk/Bush corner, directly under the Sanctuary. It provides an easy and inviting welcome to the building. Large windows along both Polk and Bush provides a view into the fellowship hall and church offices to show the life of the building to all who pass.
Each space within the building is a deliberate decision to serve or support the activities of a church -- to provide meditative and celebratory worship, to serve, to celebrate fellowship and to educate. Important details on each floor: The key features of each floor are described below, with the positions in relation to their location in the building.
STREET LEVEL: COMMUNITY LIFE
The ground level is the "hub" of constant activity for the congregation. The space is designed to be useable throughout the week, enabling church functions, non-profit meetings and other mission activities to occur without disturbing the rest of the building.
Corner Entrance. The first experience of the building is its lobby. To give a sense of welcome the main doors is at grade level on the corner of Polk and Bush. The space provides easy orientation and access to the fellowship hall, chapel and church offices. Guests are easily greeted, and are drawn up the distinctive processional staircase to the upper level.
Fellowship Hall. About one-third of the first floor is the fellowship hall. Windows on Polk Street provides an inviting view into this community events room. It is directly accessible from the corner entrance. The rear of the community hall leads back to a rear lobby that links it with a rear garden, the kitchen and the chapel.
Daytime Chapel. The diagonal hall leads to the chapel in the center of the building. This is the symbolic “heart” of the structure and it allows the chapel to be open for worship and meditation whenever the building is in use. The chapel is a quiet space, allowing for inward focusing as part of worship needs. The space has a multiple function -- a gathering spot for prayers, pastoral care, ministerial conferences, small group education and conducting of small ceremonies -- as needed.
Offices. The church offices are next to the corner entrance. Staff members and volunteers are able to both work and to greet visitors when the offices are occupied! The office suite includes a pastor's study and a volunteer office. The design is an "open" plan with windows to provide natural lighting and ventilation, and reveal the work of the church to passing pedestrians.
Kitchen. Behind the chapel, a full-service kitchen allows for easy food preparation. The space allows for food to be prepared before events, and then "opened" to the rear lobby and garden when events conclude (such as worship services, weddings and union ceremonies). The kitchen is separate from the fellowship hall to help insure that preparations do not disturb programs, and to allow greater accessibility to other activities using the building.
UPPER LEVEL: CELEBRATION AND WORSHIP
The upper level is a space for celebration and worship. It contains a blend of indoor and outdoor spaces -- connecting the individual to the many gifts of God's creation among us.
Processional Staircase with Art Gate. The glory of God in many forms is celebrated as one rises up the processional staircase. The staircase begins with outstretched hand rails, leading up to the first level artistic gate celebrating the vine and branches. Halogen lights shine on the stairway like candles of light, leading the climber to the upper landing where the stairs separate. There the landing sits underneath a skylight, and the climber becomes surrounded by plants as they make the final journey to the Sky Lobby.
Sanctuary. Passing through the sanctuary doors, we enter our central worship space. The high beamed ceiling divided with thin bands of skylight lifts the spirits. The wood paneling and floor creates warmth. The side doors opening onto sunlight terraces gives a sense of peace and calm and a connection to God's wider world. Natural light from clerestory windows and skylights create a rich play of light and shadow -- and a feeling of the beauty of creation. The room is completely flexible and makes the participants in worship united in the act of praise -- chair configurations are changed regularly.
Children's Terrace. A terrace space on the Bush Street side of the Sanctuary provides visual connection to outdoors, focused on hosting children. This space provides an "outdoor retreat" where children can enjoy fresh air. It is visible from the sanctuary so parents can monitor their children during the service if desired.
Meditation Terrace. A terrace space on the Polk Street side of the Sanctuary is a "retreat" for worshipers with a sacred feel. It is available for prayer and meditation as well as other gatherings. It further allows us to connect with the outdoors during worship.
CONGREGATIONAL APPROACH TO THE DESIGN PROCESS
As Congregationalists, the design process poses challenges and joys, as we seek to find a common vision in the congregation that matches the visions of the "master" architects, who understand and contemplate issues of design in their daily careers.
Our architects had helped us decide the feasibility regarding construction and with assistance from Robert Wandel (UCC Fellowship of Architects), a weekend of events was planned to start the process. An all day workshop on Saturday brought together our congregation and architects to envision our new worship home. We heard ideas and concepts, observed pictures and designs, and were challenged to always remember the theology behind all the decisions we would be making in our design concepts. An exciting time to dream was begun in building our new house of worship.
From previous workshops, we knew what principles were important to us. These were translated into the basic elements that we wanted in our new church home: Orientation of the spaces for community and congregational use. Accessibility to all. Natural light, wood, fresh air, and plants. Places to recognize our history.
Through developing a sample weekly calendar, we had basic consensus as to what spaces we needed -- narthex, sanctuary, fellowship hall, offices, library, choir room, small classroom and conference room, patio/garden, and chapel.
We also had preliminary discussions about the general positioning of the various spaces. We had previously recognized that the building site constraints generally would require that fellowship be on the first level, worship activities on the upper level, and other activities in the basement. We wanted the presence to focus on the corner of Polk and Bush Streets, to encourage visitors to come from the corner (and use the crosswalks rather than "jay-walk") and to establish visibility on both streets.
OTHER BUILDING 5 INFORMATION
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