Thursday, July 31, 2008

Classical Architecture on a Budget: It Can Be Done

Many of our readers, and the public in general, continue to assume that traditional architecture is beyond the reach of the average parish. As I have said before, good architecture of any sort is expensive, and a lot of it has to do with the client's priorities. I have seen in the last few days designs for two fairly ordinary parishes, done in a nondescript modern style, that ran well over ten million, and this includes at least some of the grandiose support buildings--parish halls, youth cafes, theaters, that appear to have become compulsory. A large classical church--admittedly, a somewhat simplified one--could be built fairly easily within the confines of such a budget, if perhaps some of the other parish functions were curtailed a bit.

But even more can be cut from both program and design if the architect is clever. The DC-based classical firm then known as Franck, Lohsen and McCrery (currently Franck and Lohsen) did a handsome combined parish center and 600-seat church for Pope John XXIII Catholic Church at Canal Winchester, Ohio, intended as the future parish hall in a larger master-plan, on a miniscule budget of $2.5 million. While the church proper is quietly fused into the larger complex, rather than standing out above it, as the building is intended to be a social hall in the future, this typology is more logical here than in the more permanent context of the standard suburban parish. Note that while simple, the whole is executed with a fairly elevated canonical classical vocabulary, with Doric pilasters and well-formed moldings. As the parish grows, the campus will presumably expand organically.

In the mean time, rather than settling for a stop-gap gymn-church or a gigantic center that may well turn out to be a monetary black hole, they have a beautiful church to worship in. Compare this to the $11-$14 million that could easily be spent on a monster parish church with attached center in the modern manner. Money is part of the problem, but a lack of vision, planning and design is the real missing puzzle-piece.

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