Wednesday, June 14, 2006

More on St. Saviour's

St. Saviour's, as I explained in one of my previous posts, was a small sketch project or esquisse intended to distill the lessons learned from my designs for Our Lady, Queen of the English Martyrs, into a smaller, more manageable form suitable to an open suburban site. I chose 300 seats as the size because both Our Lady of Walsingham and Our Lady of the Atonement are roughly that size, and it's within range of Duncan Stroik's 500-seat All Saints Church, which I knew was budgetarily reasonable enough to get built by a parish in fairly normal circumstances. All Saints seats around 500, but lacks a dome and an antiphonal choir, unlike St. Saviour's.

The church is predominantly red brick with stone trim with a green copper dome and a dark slate or shingle roof behind the parapet. White-painted metal moldings, cornices and other details could be used on the upper portions to save on costs, as at All Saints. The key to a church like this is to save your money for the big moments--brick on the sides and a largely stone front, or even just a few nice stone details and statuary, is a wise use of funds, so as to save up extra cash for the interior, particularly the sanctuary and altar.

The interior is mostly plasterwork--another cost-saving measure. Borromini was famous for his Baroque-on-a-budget plaster interiors, many of which are considered jewels of world architecture today. True baroque does not always require the extensive stonework that many Gothic churches present--while degraded by some as structurally a sham, it's actually much more manageable by current building standards and opens up the field to a whole range of exciting possibilities in regard to vaulting, domes and decoration.

I was inspired by Borromini's Propaganda Fide chapel in this particular example, in addition to the Wren churches that had given me so many ideas for the parent project. There are room for confessionals, pulpit, choir organ gallery and rear organ gallery, and a fairly broad antiphonal choir beneath the dome in what might be called a "false transept" arrangement which I derive from a very intriguing church in Minneapolis, the late 19th century basilica of St. Mary's. A full-blown set of transepts would have added a great deal more to the budget, while here the cruciform plan is iconographically present on the exterior and on the interior is used to create the practical space always at a premium in small churches, not to mention the sacred distance a long chancel affords, something else hard to manage in small parishes.

Some classical or baroque parish designs have been cricitized as too expensive, too ornate, or not 'Catholic' enough in comparison with the Gothic. Baroque is undoubtedly a Catholic style, developed in the context of Papal Rome--and while it may draw on pagan classical roots, one could make that argument about many fine things in Catholic culture, or for that matter, the Pope's title of Pontifex Maximus, and it will be a sad day if we wish to throw that most Catholic of titles out! This is I think a manageable, cost-conscious design, and it shows that such a humbler project is possible within the bounds of this manner of architecture, and that given current lack of certain specialty skills, it may be possible, using Baroque-inspired classicism, to achieve a more robust and fuller range of expression with less money.

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