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Church Architecture in America

LukeDM

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It seems like in America, we have difficulty replicating good Orthodox architecture. However, sometimes I see churches here in America which do a wonderful job of portraying the faith through architecture. What's especially impressive to me is when I see a church build a beautiful temple without an astronomical budget. I've seen meager buildings constructed out of sheet metal that are traditional and beautiful, and I've seen expensive showy buildings that are a poor representation. I have been wanting to start a thread to share Orthodox buildings in America that we think are faithful to our tradition and are beautiful to look at - Any style and any time frame.

Also feel free to discuss your opinions about orthodox architecture in America in general. I think about these things a lot, but don't have many people who like talking about it.

Here's one that I found just yesterday on the internet. This is St. Sava's church in Allen, TX in the OCA. It's a beautiful Byzantine style church, made in a stick frame construction with stucco exterior.
If I were to nitpick it, I would say that it is proportionally a little short. At least in comparison to the historic churches in this style which could tower to 3 stories high with a floorplan of this size. The biggest effect this height will have would be the acoustics. It will be lacking much of the reverb a taller church would have. HOWEVER, is that height necessary? Absolutely not. I understand saving the extra money on a dimension which cannot be used by the congregation, and I think it's a reasonable compromise to make in a parish church.

I'd like to know what kind of roof material they used, looks like some kind of a standing seam. I also really like the band of natural stone around the exterior.





The company who designed this church has done several other projects here in the states, as well as an monastery in Romania.

http://mirela-tudora.squarespace.com/about-1
 

Asteriktos

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One I've mentioned before and still really like, St. Innocent in Macon Georgia...

innocent macon georgia re.jpg


innocent 2.jpg
 

LukeDM

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That's beautiful! Reminds me of a scaled down version of the Georgian Orthodox national Cathedral in Tbilisi.
 

hecma925

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Andrew Gould has done some interesting proposals in many places (including for St. Sava's in Allen, TX). Sometimes it does come down to budget, other times what an architect envisions isn't complementary with the parish community. One where he hit the mark is Holy Ascension (OCA), Mount Pleasant, SC.





Here's a link to his site with a list of projects he has worked on, some completed and others just proposals.
 

LukeDM

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I agree, Andrew Gould is great. I think he manages to incorporate local architectural elements in a tasteful way, which is sometimes easier said than done.

I think you forgot to include the link, Hecma.
Andrew Gould's Church Architecture
He also does quite a bit with church furnishings. I always enjoy reading his stuff at Orthodox Arts Journal, which has a lot of perspectives and information on various aspects of the arts in Orthodoxy.

I especially like the building he did for St. Gregory Palamas monastery. It's a really cool blend of Orthodox structure using American materials and style.






 

LukeDM

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Here are some of Andrew's proposals for St. Sava's in Tx with a spanish mission flair. I've always been fond of basilica style churches like this. It reminds me of St. Demetrios' church in Thessaloniki. Interesting to see their two options. I can't imagine having to decide between two designs quite as nice as they had.





And here's St. Demetrios for comparison.



 

Menas17

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I really like the work of Mirela Tudora
I live in Texas so I’m familiar and have been to St. Sava’s a couple of other parishes she has designed
 

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I think Holy Trinity in Santa Fe is a really beautiful church. Somehow manages to mix the Spanish mission style with.the byzantine style in a nice way. The new wood carved iconostasis is beautiful there. On that note, the entire church is covered in beautiful icons. They really invested in the icons there.

Unfortunately, don't really have pictures to share.

Pretty much every chapel at St Anthony's in Arizona is beautiful and different from every other chapel there. They need more dome paintings though! Only the St Elias chapel has a dome painting I think. But really, every chapel there is beautiful. Real top of the line wood carving there as well.

I've been to some real low budget churches. I like my churches beautiful, but even I know that this isn't REALLY what is most important. Truthfully, I don't think I have ever been to an ugly Greek church. They very consistantly seem to have nice churches.
 

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Andrew Gould did a proposal for All Saints of North America in New Mexico



But apparently they pulled an Allen, TX and went with a different proposal by Mirela Tudora.

 

Thetruthisgod

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Andrew Gould did a proposal for All Saints of North America in New Mexico


If that is the one in Albuquerque, I like the priest there.

The article mentions Archangel Michaels. One of my favorite monasteries, I love all the monks there. You can tell they all love each other too. Abbot Silouan is a man who has spoken a lot of healing in my life. I really like his sense of humor.
 

hecma925

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I think Holy Trinity in Santa Fe is a really beautiful church. Somehow manages to mix the Spanish mission style with.the byzantine style in a nice way. The new wood carved iconostasis is beautiful there. On that note, the entire church is covered in beautiful icons. They really invested in the icons there.

Unfortunately, don't really have pictures to share.
I don't have any exterior pictures. I got these a few years back when visiting during the diocesan Parish Life Conference.
Resized_SFchurchicon.jpeg
Resized_SFchurchdome.jpeg
 

Thetruthisgod

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I don't have any exterior pictures. I got these a few years back when visiting during the diocesan Parish Life Conference.
View attachment 20271View attachment 20272
Yeah, that's the one. Very memorable church.

I stayed there for a week earlier this year in the guest room. Father Jesse let me play his piano when no one was looking. Hah.

I was blessed to be with Father John, the priest there who is retiring, and the monks of archangel Michael's during a dedication of a chapel to St Nicholas earlier this year.

I really like New Mexico. Very beautiful place with nice people.
 

LukeDM

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Andrew Gould did a proposal for All Saints of North America in New Mexico

But apparently they pulled an Allen, TX and went with a different proposal by Mirela Tudora.
This thread is turning into a Andrew vs. Mirela competetion showdown.
 

hecma925

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Holy Cross Monastery (ROCOR) in Wayne, WV went with Gould. Their current church is a modified double-wide trailer, as is their refectory. Both are practically falling apart.



They broke ground for construction last month. The bottom part of the church will be the new kitchen and refectory.

 

LukeDM

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Holy Cross Monastery (ROCOR) in Wayne, WV went with Gould. Their current church is a modified double-wide trailer, as is their refectory. Both are practically falling apart.

They broke ground for construction last month. The bottom part of the church will be the new kitchen and refectory.

It's gonna be glorious. I really like the approach of using the timber as a modern American colonnade/exonarthex.

I like that all of Andrew Gould's designs have a traditional Orthodox height. I don't think I've seen any of his designs that weren't at least around 2 stories.
 

Thetruthisgod

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I love Holy Cross. It's about time they had a proper church built!

The double wide worked though, but definitely too small.
 

hecma925

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The double wide worked though, but definitely too small.
I think most parishes have to deal with what works, even sacrificing beauty at times.
 

Thetruthisgod

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I think most parishes have to deal with what works, even sacrificing beauty at times.
When I first went to Holy Cross, I had never seen such a high concentration of relics in one place. That in itself made the place beautiful.
 

Menas17

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I'll add Sts. Constantine & Helen in Carrollton, TX. They went with Mirela Tudora I believe. They broke ground on the parish and it's suppose to be done some time next year.
IMG_0318.jpeg

IMG_0652.png
 

hecma925

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When I first went to Holy Cross, I had never seen such a high concentration of relics in one place. That in itself made the place beautiful.
Same here. I think the other place that I saw with a ton of relics was St. John the Wonderworker (OCA) in Atlanta, GA. The founding priest had a knack of being gifted relics.
 

LukeDM

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I'll add Sts. Constantine & Helen in Carrollton, TX. They went with Mirela Tudora I believe. They broke ground on the parish and it's suppose to be done some time next year.
View attachment 20273
View attachment 20274
This is awesome. I think the drawing is soo much more proportionate than the 3d model, however. That model looks kind of odd to my eye
 

LukeDM

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Here's a bigger church than we've been talking about. This is St. Luke's in Erie, CO under the Antiochian archdiocese. I find this one really interesting. This company has done lots of churches and they seem to all be about this size. Probably somewhere in the 200-400 person sized churches. Just nearly every church they've designed is octagonal instead of being rectangular or a cross-in-square shape. I love their outside styling of the churches. Seriously, nearly every one they've designed is just beautiful. I can't say enough how attractive I find the exterior of all of their churches.

However, I'm really not sure that I'm sold on the interior space. It seems really odd to me. Instead of the traditional four columns supporting the dome, they design it with eight, giving it a completely different feel. I'd be interested to hear how these churches perform acoustically, although I'm fairly certain most all of these use amplification. What do y'all say? They're gorgeous buildings and I'm certainly nitpicking, but the interior just seems so very odd to me. It's like Orthodox architecture built like a megachurch, almost. Maybe this is simply the best way to build an Orthodox structure that can fit so many people. A lot of historic cathedrals would fit around the same number and cost many more thousands of dollars to build in today's world.

What do y'all say? I'm very sold on the cross-in-square being an ideal structure for worship, but even for this church being different than my preference, I admit that it's extremely well done. Here's the website of the firm that designs these churches, I'll probably post some more of theirs later. CJK Design





 

Menas17

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I really like St. Symeon in Birmingham, AL. Exterior is pretty plain, but the interior is amazing:
STSY2.jpeg

STSY.jpg



I also really like St. Elijah in Edmond, OK. The exterior is pretty boxy, but, the interior is really nice:
SE1.jpg
 

Menas17

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Here's a bigger church than we've been talking about. This is St. Luke's in Erie, CO...

St. Lukes is an amazing parish from what I've heard. They are very vibrant and growing
 

Menas17

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Holy Theophany in Colorado Springs. One of the prettiest parish in the U.S I can think of:
Screen Shot 2020-12-08 at 3.42.34 PM.png

Screen Shot 2020-12-08 at 3.43.08 PM.png
 

LukeDM

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I really like St. Symeon in Birmingham, AL. Exterior is pretty plain, but the interior is amazing:
WOW. This is one of my favorite things to see: Taking what we have to work with here in America and turning it into something beautiful and traditional. The exterior structure looks like something that a (relatively) average contractor could build, without having to dedicate years of study to ecclesiastical architecture. Awesome.

Here's an exterior picture of St. Elijah in OKC. It's a good example of working with what they had. At the time this church was built, there were not nearly as many resources for Orthodox architecture in America. I think it's awe inspiring that they did as well as they did for the circumstances.

 

hecma925

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St. John's in Eagle River, AK used a geodesic dome for the nave.

 

LukeDM

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LukeDM

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St. John's in Eagle River, AK
I'm trying to decide how I feel about this one. There aren't many interior pictures on the internet of it.
 

hecma925

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Instead of the traditional four columns supporting the dome, they design it with eight, giving it a completely different feel.
I like how the columns aren't in the way which allow the very large nave to fit more people.
 

hecma925

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I'm trying to decide how I feel about this one. There aren't many interior pictures on the internet of it.
I think it works, although curious about how the acoustics are.

From a builder that does geodesic homes:

Timberline Geodesic Homes offer unmatched energy efficiency. Timberline Domes use 30% less surface area to enclose the same amount of volume as a box type structure. This means there is less area for heat to escape or outside air to penetrate. In addition, the spherical shape of a geodesic dome provides for natural and efficient interior air circulation. The natural aerodynamics of the dome means that cold air blows around the home instead of hitting a flat wall and penetrating to the inside.
domehome.com
 

LukeDM

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I think it works, although curious about how the acoustics are.

From a builder that does geodesic homes:

domehome.com
I found a picture of the exterior which shows that it's built with transepts. I like that a lot more. I just wish there were more interior pics. I think it could be a really interesting concept if done well, and it seems to be done well.

Churches that are just a giant dome from the ground up are haram to me. See: The GOAA cathedral of the Assumption in Denver, CO.
 

hecma925

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Churches that are just a giant dome from the ground up are haram to me. See: The GOAA cathedral of the Assumption in Denver, CO.
I knew that sounded familiar.

 

LukeDM

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That priest's line about the Government stealing domes because they want to take the place of God is awesome. :LOL:
 

LukeDM

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Here's a most beautiful church: Ss Peter and Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church in Potomac, MD, built in a neo-byzantine style. This church definitely has some money flowing in, thanks be to God. Worth especial attention is the unusual background to all of the frescoes. It reminds me of a beautiful sunrise or sunset. Very unusual, but I have to say that I it's done tastefully and not out of order with tradition. Another remarkable feature is the beautiful marble iconostasis and dome over the altar.









Here is a wonderful 360° tour of the church. Orthodox 360
 

hecma925

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The frescoes are very nice.

Fr Silouan (Justiniano), an iconographer, writes about the incorporation of a gradated background in iconography in this article.
 

LukeDM

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The frescoes are very nice.

Fr Silouan (Justiniano), an iconographer, writes about the incorporation of a gradated background in iconography in this article.
Great article, thoroughly enjoyed the read, thanks Hecma! I typically enjoy the spirit in which articles are written from the Orthodox Arts Journal.
 
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