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Burgeoning Faith

Project: The Church of St. Edward The Confessor, Granville, OH

Architects: Meleca Architecture, Columbus, OH; David Meleca, AIA, President

Construction Manager: Lincoln Construction, INC., Columbus, OH

Mural Artist: Michael McEwan, Columbus, OH

By Will Holloway

By 2002, the parishioners of St. Edward the Confessor in Granville, OH, had long since outgrown their 3,000-sq.ft. Roman Catholic church. Seeking to expand seating from 300 to at least 800 through the construction of a new worship hall, the parish turned to Col-umbus, OH-based Meleca Architecture. Working within a relatively restrictive budget, the firm designed a new 14,500-sq.ft. worship space and renovated the existing church, reinventing it as the narthex of the new complex. After a year of construction – carried out by Columbus-based Lincoln Construction, Inc. – the new Church of St. Edward the Confessor was dedicated by an appreciative parish in September of 2004.

The town of Granville is located in central Ohio about 30 miles east of Columbus. David Meleca, AIA, president of Meleca Architecture, describes it as an area with a fairly eclectic range of architecture; therefore, in the initial design phase, the firm presented the parish with three unique schemes. "We did a very Classical design, an English stone, almost Romanesque design, and we also did a country church design with wood clapboard," he says. "They liked all three and asked us to combine what they thought were the best qualities of each into one scheme."

All of Meleca's schemes laid out the new worship space in the cruciform plan of traditional Cath-olic churches. (The trend toward traditionally styled Roman Catholic churches is also evidenced by the firm's designs of St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church in Leawood, KS, and St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church in Westerville, OH.) The final design of St. Edward the Confessor was realized in a metal-stud construction with a brick veneer, which Meleca says is probably the least expensive way to handle such a large facility. "What was unique about this one was that it had a very tight budget," he says. "At the time, they really wanted to stay in the $3-3.5 million range. Building a church that met their requirements and hit those numbers was quite a challenge – goals for churches like these are to be long-lasting, to be generational, so there is a challenge in finding a balance between that and the budget."

The original design oriented the new church north-south as a separate structure just to the west of the existing church. In a cost-saving measure that was suggested by the contractor, the new church, in the final design, was rotated 90 degrees counterclockwise and connected to the old church, enabling the old church to be incorporated as the narthex and thereby eliminating the need for the construction of a new narthex. "The existing church was pretty rudimentary – a steel construction with a double-brick exterior wall," says Meleca. "We really had to almost dismantle the old church, keeping the steel frame and literally building around it on all sides." Along with the narthex, the renovated existing church now also includes offices and restrooms. (The completed L-shaped complex also includes classrooms and a fellowship hall in an existing space connected to the north end of what was the old church.) The new narthex is accessed from the east via a Classical entrance portico, which was designed to straddle the old church and connect with the new structure; it is topped with a cupola. An auxiliary entrance was also added to the south side of the narthex.

In the interior of the narthex, the wood ceiling and timbers of the original church are still visible to parishioners, creating a sense of continuity that Meleca says has been appreciated by the parish. "A lot of the older parishioners who were involved with the first church are very pleased with how they can still see the old church," he says.

In the new space, the treatment of the ceiling was another cost-saving measure. "The ceiling was a major debate," says Meleca. "How much volume do we put in there? Do we do a full cathedral ceiling? Initially we had a full cathedral ceiling, both lengthwise and along the transepts. We resolved not to put the cathedral ceiling in the transepts, flattening out the trusses and simplifying some of that ceiling treatment." In the nave, the ceiling was partially flattened to allow mechanical systems to be hidden in the concealed truss space, thus eliminating the need for a basement. "We also painted the ceiling dark throughout, using painting as more of the decoration than trim work," says Meleca. "Keeping the trim down to a minimum was a way of keeping costs down."

The new church now seats 900. Taking the possibility of future expansion into consideration, Meleca Architecture's design allows for alterations that would increase capacity by an additional 300. "What we resolved to do, to try to incorporate the idea that they wanted to expand at some point, was enable the ability to put in balconies on the two transept sides in the future," says Meleca. "We brought the plate height of the roof up high enough so that could be handled, and actually worked out how the staircases and egress paths would work based on that."

The three large murals behind the altar were painted by local artist Michael McEwan, who was also the project artist for St. Brigid of Kildare Catholic Church in Dublin, OH, and is now an artist-in-residence at Capital University in Columbus.

Because there were alcove spaces designed for the murals, McEwan actually executed the paintings – acrylic on canvas – in his studio and later had them installed in the church. The central mural portrays a young Christ as the Good Shepherd; the side panels include St. Edward, St. Theresa, St. Catherine of Siena and two figures known as the Roman martyrs, depicted in white. "I had some students who helped me with a lot of the base painting, and then I basically used a triad of gold, red and blue," says McEwan. "We also used quite a bit of iridescent and metallic paint to emulate gold leaf. We worked on the pieces over the course of three months and basically cut them off of their canvas – they have professionals who trim them and install them. It looks like they were painted there all along."

McEwan says the parish is very happy with the result, noting that the murals fit into the overall goal of creating a traditional-looking church. "I know that with this church and some other recent churches, the feeling is that we want churches that look specifically like churches, that they don't need to look like multi-purpose buildings or that 60s space-station kind," he says. "I'm really delighted, as an artist, to be able to contribute to that, because the great old churches always had fabulous decorative art of some kind – I enjoy taking that and putting it in a modern context, bringing some of that forward a little bit." Meleca agrees that the response has been overwhelmingly positive. "One of the things we've heard over and over again is 'finally someone has built a church that looks like a church again, and it looks like a traditional Catholic church,'" he says. "I've heard it from parishioners, I've heard it countless times from priests, and then we just got a new bishop who actually went out there and said it was his favorite new church that he had seen." TB

 

 

 
 

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