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'Church in the round'

Renovation shows design elegance on a shoestring budget.

All too often sensible architecture is very rarely encountered outside major urban centers. Termed a mindless, frightening specter, Southern California's building 'style' has been cliched to mean 'blight.' One reason is that communities have come to accept lowered design expectations as the norm. Another is that many leaders - public officials, owners, developers assume that 'good design' comes - at a high price.

More decision-makers should expect that Quality is derived from projects that 'survive through design' - without - a bloated budget. Given a project's severely constricted budget, creative, imaginative and talented architects can bring about buildings that exemplify grace and refined style. Listening and close attentiveness to the client is crucial to achieving the desired results.

One recent interior renovation serves as a perfect illustration. Chosen by St. Jane Frances' Pastor, Architect Paul Lindblad executed finalized improvements after recommending the most appropriate option of three sketches by Joseph Amestoy.

A Celebration Space

Christ's mystery and presence are reflected by the prime liturgical symbols: assembly, ambo, altar, chair and font.

Provided by the Bishop's Committee on the Liturgy within the context of the Second Vatican Council, programmatic determinants for the renovation manifested the paradigm shift in the Catholic liturgical perception of celebration. Lessened importance was given to adoration, the sanctuary, and historical affection of gross monumentality. The new emphasis became 'assembly as celebrant'. Pre-Vatican II architecture had separated the sanctuary symbols from the assembly - leaving the congregation removed from the main liturgical symbols.

No sense of 'gathering' was accommodated in building design. 'Body of Christ' in midst of congregation's seating Now at the building's core, the repositioned altar draws people together with a 'centering force.' Aptly described as the 'church in the round,' the renovation 'gathers' the assembly into the midst of a sequence represented by the ambo [lectern], altar, presider's chair, and baptismal font.

Vatican II: From adoration to celebration

Reflective of the splayed building geometries, pew arrangement 'defers' and subtends a wider space around the altar.

Though facing pews direct attention toward the altar, the upswept exposed beam ceiling draws the eye to a risen Christ in front of a mosaic mounted on a clerestory-daylit wall. In facing pew sections, each pew was offset to accentuate and align with the subtly angled sidewalls.

The original program called for a new skylight to accentuate the altar area but the structural beam reinforcing costs delayed the skylight construction for two years after the pew reconfiguration phase of the larger renovation effort.

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Last Updated 04-27-2009
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