At Second Presbyterian Church, nearly a century of steady growth and numerous additions to the early twentieth-century sanctuary had created a chaotic circulation pattern that confused adults and children alike. Realizing that it was time for extensive changes, they selected Hughes Associates A&E to work with the congregation to establish their renovation goals.
Working closely with congregational leadership and staff, we determined the following essential needs:
- Develop a clear and direct circulation path throughout the building
- Provide elevator access to all levels
- Create welcoming spaces for informal gatherings
- Upgrade existing classrooms, especially youth and children’s music rehearsal suites, adding new technology and improving acoustics
- Consolidate previously dispersed administrative offices into a central location
In addition to meeting programmatic goals, essential challenges of this project were connecting two buildings with five different floor levels, satisfying requirements of the Roanoke City Architectural Review Board, and meeting current life-safety codes. Finally, the improvements had to be designed to be built in phases to allow the congregation to continue using the spaces during construction.
Our solution was the creation of a three-story in-fill addition in an underused courtyard which became a “Great Hall.” This Great Hall draws architectural details from the 1910 gothic-style sanctuary. It is anchored by the existing entrance at one end and a new grand stair and elevator at the other. Windows looking east and south open to spectacular, previously obscured, views of the surrounding mountains and the Mill Mountain Star. A sweeping curved corridor connects the fellowship areas to the sacred space. The glass-enclosed library at the midpoint of the path emphasizes the importance of education and study in the life of an active Christian. Corridors in the existing building were also re-configured to simplify circulation.
A balcony wraps around four sides of the Great Hall on the second floor providing easy access to music rehearsal suites and classrooms. Children leaving their classes can easily spot parents in the gathering space below and have an immediate sense of orientation. Clerestory windows which had been blocked during a previous renovation were discovered during design development and were reopened, adding natural light to second-floor classrooms.
Below the Great Hall, a Young Adults gathering space is modeled after a coffee shop. Adopting a compass as their guiding symbol (fabricated in terrazzo in the floor of the main entrance), the congregation now feels that they can get anywhere from here.