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Architectural Celebrations

Spotlight on Community

Preservation Dallas at First Presbyterian Church of Dallas

Last week we had the pleasure of visiting the First Presbyterian Church of Dallas with Preservation Dallas, to observe the amazing renovation by Architexas. As a Believer, it was exciting to visit a vibrant downtown church in the middle of a modern city. The church facilities reach out in all directions, like arms extended to embrace all the community.

We parked in a convenient fenced lot and entered the crisp facade, where a friendly face behind an information desk greeted us warmly. The facilities reflected everything modern and efficient, while also radiating a warm welcome and providing great signage. We were directed to an area outside the sanctuary and invited to take a look at the church's timeline.

Oh my goodness! As their website says, "The church began with eleven members on February 3, 1856, one day after Dallas was incorporated as a city." The members have multiplied and several locations have hosted the congregation, but untying the history of Dallas from its First Presbyterian Church would be quite a task. What an important role this congregation has played in our city.

We grabbed the photos with our phone, so they don't reflect the quality we usually deliver, but we wanted you to see what was done.

Entering the Worship Center

We're fortunate to have traveled extensively world-wide, but nonetheless, the worship center wowed us. Architexas took what could have been called an outdated, dysfunctional space and turned it into a place of wonder, utilizing all the beauty the original builders created and transforming it into timeless sanctuary for the worship of the Triune God.

A living church requires much of its spaces and through the years this congregation made many modifications to the original architecture. They needed a major renovation, but they also wanted to honor their history. Architexas was the perfect partner for their project.

Anne Stimmel, AIA and Joshua Taylor, FPCD Director of Music and Worship, talked to us about the renovation. What impressed us most was the care given to uncovering the original design and function of the sanctuary's features. This was an arduous task. Many layers of grime, gold leaf and, shall we say, "creativity" had been applied since the church was built. For instance, these were a few of their challenges:

  • Sliding doors which hadn't operated for decades connected to renovated spaces which no longer fit the doors

  • Copper ventilation grills, which were beautiful, but no longer needed for ventilation, started disintegrating after cleaning

  • Stained glass windows without any type of adhesive, had to be cataloged, removed and returned to their exact original positions, without adding any adhesive

  • A sound booth in the seriously flawed balcony covered an original stained glass window featuring Jesus

The worship space is odd-shaped with no right angles and many curved sections, not a auspicious design for renovation. However, sitting in the space today, one would think each angle and curve had been designed specifically to create the marvelous effects, not wrenched from numerous renovations to come up with something adequate. It really is a beautiful masterpiece wrought out of glorious intent, ugly necessities and spectacular renovation efforts.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing is the way they've addressed the most modern elements of the room.

  • The church special-ordered contemporary worship furniture for the baptistery, altar and teaching podium, but the furnishings fit in seamlessly with the classical features of the original design.

  • Accommodations for special needs congregants look more decorative than functional

  • Special acoustical panels in the balcony railing don't look like acoustical panels at all. It looks as if they rescued the original wood panels.

  • A very modern sound booth was moved away from the Jesus stained-glass window, allowing everyone to enjoy it again

  • State-of-the-art lighting panels for theatrical productions look as if they have always been there, not just added in because they needed to be

We could go on, but maybe you should just visit the church yourself. It really is wonderful to see, but we're writing a blog post, not a book.

An Interesting Juxtaposition

It was almost a year ago we visited Old Dallas High School with Preservation Dallas. This was another wonderful old edifice in Downtown. Rather than renovating the space to its original purpose while embracing modern technology and function, the old school building was completely re-purposed. We've loved the conversations we've had as we discussed the two projects. We thought you might enjoy comparing the work Architexas has done for the First Presbyterian Church of Dallas, with the innovative re-purposing of Perkins + Will we saw last year. If so, follow this link.

Thanks again to Preservation Dallas for always sponsoring such amazing opportunities around our city in their Intown Outing events and to Archtexas for their beautiful work and engaging program.

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