D a n i e l R u a r k , A r c h i t e c t
Architecture and Planning
St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church
The Main Church of the Parish represents the second completed element of a Master Plan prepared by Aaron Green Associates. It is primarily hexagonal in plan form, 15,000 sqft. in area and seats 800 individuals. Flanking side wing appendages contain service and utility spaces. The hexagonal base is constructed entirely of integrally colored split-face concrete masonry to the underside of a projecting cement plaster overhang. A corresponding hexagonal shallow dome, copper sheathed, covers the main assembly space. The dome is intersected by a tall, eight-sided pyramidal form, also copper-clad, and both split open down the center by a broad, translucent skylight. As experienced from the interior, the diffused daylighting dramatically highlights the center of liturgical action and presentation. The altar directly below is bathed in pleasant, natural light which is shared as well by the 800-seat nave.
The congregation seating virtually surrounds the altar, in a “theatre-in-the-round” arrangement according to post-Vatican II requirements. All members of the congregation have clear site lines to the altar and thereby develop a connectedness to one another and the celebrant. A strong linear axis is maintained through the center of the Church, from entry off the lobby to the choir area opposite. This allows the celebrant a high degree of flexibility for liturgical furnishing arrangements in front of the congregation, but most of all, the opportunity to incorporate movement, particularly processionals.
A full-immersion baptismal is constructed of precast concrete and lined with glass mosaic tile. Internally-illuminated glass and wood special cabinets are integrated into the adjacent columns (to house related liturgical accessories).
Windows to the exterior are designed with precast concrete surrounds. The architects also designed the entry identification signage of precast concrete.
A large, original bronze sculpture was commissioned of, and executed by, Heloise Crista of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. It depicts St. Elizabeth Seton in
a protective embrace of children and is placed prominently over a water pool at the base of the copper-clad pyramid.
Responsibility: Project Architect for the Main Church, working closely with Aaron Green, FAIA in develop-ing, refining and detailing the design. My efforts included producing the architectural Construction Documents, coordinating all consultants to the project, steering the project through agency review and permit-ting, as well as serve as Construction Administrator for the first nine months of the building process.