The First Presbyterian Church has been a part of Raleigh’s urban fabric for over a century. It is a well-established entity in Raleigh’s humanitarian outreach programs as well as an important part of the city’s community. The church has gone through several renovations and additions since its establishment in the 1800s, however, resulting in several buildings gathered around a parking lot with little architectural connection. The congregation wanted to update the campus to become more modern, practical and united. The members also wanted the campus to be more welcoming to the public and to contribute to downtown revitalization by reusing rainwater, minimizing energy consumption, and incorporating “greenscapes.”
Our Design Response
The project included renovating the existing Sanctuary and adjacent spaces, and replacing the existing 18,000-square-foot Education Building with a new 24,000-square-foot Education Building that houses classrooms, library, a coffee bar, archives, a common gathering space, atrium, reception area, bathrooms, and offices. The existing parking lot has now become a landscaped link that connects the two sides of the campus, along with other landscaping. Embracing green architecture, the project includes many LEED principles, such as natural ventilation and lighting and the use of locally available materials.
One of the most sustainable aspects of the church renovation was the recovery of the original 1900 building fabric, which had been covered over in subsequent renovations. We restored natural light in the old Sanctuary and adjacent Fellowship Hall, and uncovered three magnificent terra cotta and brick arches that now connect the two spaces. Before the renovation, the congregation exited Sunday services into the street or into a dark side corridor. Now, large wide doors with the arches open into the light-filled gathering space that leads to the new classroom building.
The renovation and the new Education Building not only improved and expand First Presbyterian Church as a place of worship, they also make this historic campus an exemplary liturgical community within the city.