When Marchetto Higgins Stieve Architects (MHS Architects) founder Dean Marchetto, AIA, drove by a former church in 1995, it occurred to him that the building might make an interesting office. The church, which had been sold to the American Legion in the 1930s, had had its interior outfitted with a dropped ceiling and wood-paneled walls. But Marchetto was optimistic. Upon lifting up the ceiling tiles, he saw the original barrel-vaulted ceiling above. He purchased the building and turned the old sanctuary space into a beautiful studio.
Fast-forward to 2011, when MHS decided to expand its flat-backed church building with a rounded, modern, apselike addition. Partnering with nearby Stevens Institute of Technology, Marchetto and his team designed a zinc-clad structure supported by bent steel tubes over a ground-level parking space. Working with parametric tools, the firm had each zinc panel custom laser-cut, numbered, and shipped to the site, and then carefully bent and installed. Now, as Marchetto tells it, when clients walk down the former church aisle to his office in the apse, “It’s a nice transition from the formal space into the more freeform, interesting space. … It’s very dramatic as clients come in.”