Mercedes de la Garza, AIA
TRINITY EPISCOPAL CATHEDRAL RENOVATION
By Father William Stomski with input from Senior Warden James Lamb (Both Owner’s Representatives):
“Function determines form” has been the favored design technique for worship spaces since the revolutionary changes of Vatican II in 1965. Today, we seek to be environmentally sensitive, inclusive, and serve many purposes while stewarding Earth’s materials and resources.
The Cathedral was designed by several architects, including DeLongchamps, and built over a 20-year timeline, starting in 1924, with completion delayed by both the Great Depression and World War II. Its unusual poured-concrete, Gothic Revival structure incorporates major components of the style—a grand, soaring exterior, pointed arches, stained glass, and a dominant tower. Inside, there was an elongated nave, multilevel chancel, and high altar along with barriers dividing liturgical areas. Decades of ecumenical dialogue, historical studies, theological changes, and worship renewal drove our church’s need for our spaces to be uncluttered, simplified, and physically focused on the essential activities of preaching and Holy Communion.
Our desire for our spaces to serve our current liturgical purposes while preserving the integrity of a state- and federal-designated historic building was daunting. With the capable guidance of architect Mercedes de la Garza, Plenium Builders, and our hardworking Renovation Committee, we achieved our goals for Trinity. A new color theme, lighting features and finishes—all coordinated and harmoniously aligned with the principal design elements of the space—unify and brighten our space and enhance the beauty of the stained glass. Contemporary sound and lighting technology improves our ability to worship together and enjoy our special instruments like the pipe organ. The warm, stunning woodwork was carefully stored or protected in-place and then preserved or repurposed alongside new, matching pieces. Custom light fixtures were built to replicate the shape and character of the originals which were rewired for LEDs. Updated HVAC systems increase comfort during gatherings and new electrical systems provide safe power.
We also added ADA-compliant restrooms and coordinated exterior access for security and safety. A major environmental issue was the presence of asbestos in the floor tile mastic, all of which was removed in accordance with required standards. All fire alarm systems were upgraded, and fire sprinklers were installed in the Nave ceiling for safety even though local fire codes did not require such installation. Significant furnishings were restored and given greater presence.
The construction supervisors for Plenium Builders and their subcontractors were especially respectful and observant of the historic, cultural, and religious nature of the building in which they were working and renovating. We are pleased to have achieved a historical gem that is at once functional, cheerful, and welcoming.
Photos by Jeff Ross Photography
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