DXA studio was asked by Curbed to explore the possibility of rethinking how deteriorating churches in NYC could be saved. Using the West Park Presbyterian Church in the Upper West Side as a case study, “DXA’s brief was to preserve as much of the building [... as possible], add apartments, respect the neighborhood context, [...] and come up with a financially viable solution that a well-intentioned developer could act on”.
To achieve this, DXA studio first rigorously analyzed local zoning laws to see how much residential area this corner lot could yield; then, inspiration was taken from the Romanesque Revival-Style church and its adjacent buildings to create a form that “grows out of the old architecture’s fertile trunk and tops out at the adjoining rooflines.” The form’s triangular nature, as well as its materiality of warm stone and translucent glass, echoes that of the church below, while the floor-to-floor heights and panel widths mirror that of the neighboring architecture.
“[The] proposal is a gift — to the site, the neighborhood, and the architecture of New York. In that hybrid version, the church gets to keep its walls, campanile, sanctuary, and, most important, its spirit. It does sacrifice its roof, but only in exchange for an addition that honors both precedent and imagination. The new design hews to the existing skyline but pulls away from the street, ceding primacy to the original and treating the bell tower as its prominent blazon. The gables that give the church its undulating profile anchor faceted walls that tilt and ripple, generating a textured, shadow-catching surface from the original’s crevices and bays. Clad in translucent sheets of alabaster-like stone and fritted glass, the new arrival refreshes the original’s red-rock glow and gives the whole complex a consistent mineral warmth. It also moves beyond the dumb leave-it-or-lose-it debates of most preservation battles and bridges the philosophical split between additions that imitate the original’s esthetic or answer it with unmistakable contrast. The upshot is far more than just a clever conversion; it’s a master class in how the style of one era can harmonize with that of a completely different time.”