St Bernard of Clairvaux Catholic Church Renovation, Dallas, Texas
Recipient Interfaith Forum on Religion, Art, and Architecture - National Design Award
Built in 1957, this was the first "modern" church in the Diocese, yet it did not anticipate the liturgical changes soon to rise out of Vatican II. It was a long nave church with an elevated, distant altar. Its baptistry, a small separate building at the base of the bell tower, had no relationship to the liturgical life of the community.
The challenge was to give a new life to the building liturgically, while respecting the existing symbols with which the community identified, in a way which built on that which was good in the original building. The new construction is so carefully woven into the old that a new parishioner finds it hard to believe that the church has not always looked as it does now.
The old baptistry building was removed, and a new covered plaza for gathering now joins the church and school. The space which served previously as a daily chapel/cry room, has become the new narthex in which the font is a constant source of renewal, easily visible from the body of the church.
The altar was moved forward three bays, placed under a new lantern cut into the roof, and the seating was rearranged around it. The new full height masonry wall created a place for the Eucharistic Chapel where the altar was previously located. It is flanked by Reconciliation Chapels in which the stained glass from the old baptistry has been relocated. The original gold leaf canopy over the altar was lowered and set over the tabernacle on four new columns. The gates to the Eucharistic Chapel are left open except during the liturgy, when their closing and re-opening becomes a part of the ritual action.
All of the liturgical furnishings and light fixtures were designed by the architects and made by gifted craftsmen, some of whom were members of the faith community.