Saint Mary MagdalenX
The Callahan Center, built in 1992 and designed by Ziger/Snead Architects, was designed as a multipurpose space that would temporarily serve as a worship space while a new church building was constructed. The interior floor plan is a perfect ellipse, with clean, simple lines and abundant natural light. The space is serene and meditative, but according to parishioners, did not feel like a “church”. Over time, the master plan was revised and the proposed plans for a new church building gave way to a plan to convert the multipurpose space into a permanent church.
The design challenge was to make the space a sacred space, while still allowing multipurpose functions such as meetings, events for the adjacent middle school population, as well as wedding receptions complete with full bar and dancing and catering from the facility’s full service kitchen. The goal was to allow middle schoolers and wedding guests to feel comfortable in the space participating in non-religious activities, yet always aware that it was a sacred space. The sanctuary light and the open tabernacle door were to be designed as visible and prominent visual reminders of the presence of the sacred.
The parish asked us to make interior improvements to the existing church to enhance liturgical function-to make it a church. The design explored what this meant. The architectural traditions of the Church, such as the reredos, stained glass, and a center placement of tabernacle, were reexamined in the context of the modern form and simplicity of the existing space. The reredos was expressed as a simple curve that follows the radius of the ellipse and finished with silver leaf. The tabernacle was set into the curve. The stained glass was designed to be a backdrop rather than a focal point, to provide soft and colorful light behind the central focus of the space-the crucifix. The crucifix is the center and focus of the space and was designed to be both specific and universal in its detail. We worked closely with the artisans for the design of the stained glass, the sanctuary lamp, the tabernacle, the crucifix and the liturgical banners.
The project was completed in time for Easter 2010. The construction cost, including liturgical art and stained glass, was 140,000. The project was a close collaboration between the architect, artisans, and building committee.