Sacred site planning

Graduate A&M architecture students assist
Corinth church, city in site plan development

In spring 2004 graduate students from the Texas A&M College of Architecture collaborated with representatives from the city of Corinth, Texas and members of the Community Presbyterian Church of Corinth in a two-day charrette aimed at developing a comprehensive site plan for the church. The multidisciplinary team included students from Professor Jody Naderi's landscape architecture studio and Professor Phillip Tabb's architecture studio.

“A charrette is an intensive design process, which in this case involved all project stakeholders at the beginning of what will become a comprehensive site plan for Community Presbyterian’s new church sanctuary,” explained Jody Naderi, assistant professor in A&M’s Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning. “The process significantly benefits not only the congregation, but to the wider community of Corinth whose residents and civic leaders gain from the aesthetic influence of purposeful design in the overall development of this site.”

Tabb, who has a special interest in sacred architecture, has served as a consultant to the church’s “Building for The Future” team.

“In realizing the full potential of this highly visible site, our challenge was to create an appropriate civic image that allows both intimacy and sacred placemaking,” said Tabb. “The church community provided our master’s students with a valuable career-building opportunity. Their job was to listen and respond as design professionals who must balance the zoning, civic, aesthetic and spiritual needs of all parties involved.”

To prepare for the project the students surveyed the church site, surrounding residential developments and Corinth Community Park. They also attended presentations by city officials and familiarized themselves with land development requirements. The two-day charrette culminated with a student presentation to city officials and the church’s building team at Corinth’s City Hall. The students offered five distinct site renderings that detailed land utilization, water retention, aesthetics and spiritual interpretations.

“On the city planning level, we’re building for the future of Corinth and the aesthetic character of the new church sanctuary is among our concerns,” said Karen Gandy, planning and economic development director for the city. “We are flattered and delighted with the prestige and talent the team from Texas A&M has provided. They’re eager to work in partnership with the city to enhance surrounding property values while remaining sensitive to the needs of the congregation.”

During the charrette, Ken Seale, Corinth city manager, advised students on the city’s role in the multi-phase church site development.

“We want to make city services more effective for community groups who are serving the citizens of Corinth,” said Seale. “With each development phase, the city manager’s office will be available as a resource to help the A&M design team make the best use of its talents.”

Paul Leslie, Corinth’s director of community services also assisted the students, fielding questions about city codes, exterior building and masonry requirements, the sidewalks and the adjoining residential and business districts.

“We were so impressed with the A&M design team’s sensitivity to the requirements of the city and our congregation’s mission,” said Linda Whitworth-Reed, director of spiritual development for the Community Presbyterian Church and chair of the Building for the Future team. Whitworth-Reed organized and led the intensive two-day session, coordinating transportation, lodging, meeting sites and hosting a dinner at a local Italian restaurant.

“The students captured the essence of our needs and desires,” she said, “reflecting the journey of hope, transformation and peace that a spirit-filled life has to offer.”

“A church is not a building,” said David Reed, organizing pastor of the church. “Churches are people in relationship with God and each other. Our congregation’s mission is to nurture and equip each other to share the transforming love and grace of Jesus Christ with our community. Ultimately, the site plan will be defined by that mission.”

Phase One of the site development plan is intended for completion by September 2005.

Community Presbyterian Church of Corinth is a new church development of Grace Presbytery, a governing body of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The region includes 53 counties in northeast and central Texas, where there are 48,500 members worshipping in 185 congregations and fellowship groups. The Presbytery interconnects and supports the ministers and congregations in this region, building mission partnerships and leadership networks locally and around the world.

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