UBC Graduate Research

Towards a New Sacred : Past, Present and Future Forms of Non-denominational Protestant Architecture Stewart, Alexandra Adair


This project begins with an examination of the architecture of large, non-denominational Protestant churches, often referred to as megachurches. This yielded an understanding of these religious institutions and how they function architecturally, programmatically, phenomenologically as well as how they fit into larger traditions in the history of Protestant architecture. Understanding these functions led to critiques of the megachurch in regards to siting, vehicle dependence, generic building material, construction and aesthetic qualities, an insular presence within larger contexts and massive, often under-utilized spaces. These critiques and observations formed design provocations for the design component of the project. The work conducted in part one of the project identified three sites as potential candidates for the project, while in the second half of the project, one site, the Sperling Annex Rectifier station, was chosen as the single location. The design proposal focuses on the context of Vancouver and engages the particular climates for religious institutions and urban social engagement in the city. The design proposal is for a small, non-denominational Protestant church with a modest program that includes a 150-seat sanctuary, Sunday school/classroom spaces, administrative and church office space, childcare facilities, a cafe, and flexible social and public space. A chosen site adjacent to the Arbutus greenway drives a design focused on social gathering and community building around an important future transit route and social space in Vancouver’s urban fabric. Ideas of gathering and community building inform the large design moves of the church, which seeks to propose an alternative to the megachurch typology studied previously and suggests instead a small church designed around principles of site specificity, community engagement, cohesion with surrounding context, flexible building use and the reuse and adaptation of a historical, heritage building for an architecturally unique and expressive house of worship. These design moves included a gathered worship space, an entry sequence and circulation patterns within the building that form a “social concourse” en route to worship space and other functional spaces within the building and outdoor areas that connect to the greenway and create inviting, public space. With such a proposed design and strategies for implementing it, the project proposes that the critiques identified in early precedent studies may be addressed in ways that incorporate new strategies to create expressive and original sacred space while still in keeping with larger trends and shifts in traditions of Protestant architecture.

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