St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church. PHOTO: Jeff Goldberg for Esto
Architect William A. Browne, Jr. explains how he and his firm use narrative when designing buildings and spaces:
¨Columbus, Indiana – a community of less than 40,000 – has put its mark on architecture like no other community of its size. The city is ranked sixth in the nation for architectural innovation and design by the American Institute of Architects on a list that includes Chicago, New York, Boston, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Championed by Cummins Engine entrepreneur J. Irwin Miller, since 1941 this community has constructed more than 70 buildings and pieces of public art by internationally-noted architects and artists, including I.M. Pei, Eliel Saarinen and his son Eero Saarinen, Richard Meier, Harry Weese, Dale Chihuly and Henry Moore. The most revered of the commissions are the churches, so when we were selected to design the St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church, it was a heaven-sent opportunity.
Reinterpreting the seven days of creation, the design for the church begins with a simple story that reflects the ecclesiastical function of the building, as well as the Catholic faith's sacred and distinct symbols. The church’s design unfolds from its core, (1) beginning with the crucifix and the tabernacle. The altar's placement (2) is inspired by the Vatican II doctrines that bring the congregation closer to it. From this design, a nautilus configuration emerges, representing God and the perfect shape of nature. The tower and roof structure (3) reaches up toward heaven, acting not only as the church’s structural support but also as its spiritual support housing the tabernacle. The roof structure then uniquely spirals downward with the curves of the nautilus-shaped walls. Two large triangular stained glass windows, are created on the north and east walls. The baptistery's placement (4) is located in front of the main entry to the worship space, in reference to the Catholic tradition of touching holy water before entering. Traditionally, the historic narthex (5) was the entry room to the worship space, however; the modern use has adapted to a social gathering space before and after worship. Its square shape represents man's perfect shape. The sacristy, the vestry, and the nursery (6), along with restrooms and coatrooms, provide the support for the times of worship, completing the buildings functions. With this final step, the church’s design is completed (7), marking that the seventh day is for worship.¨