The brief for this project was to convert an 1836 Methodist church in Sag Harbor, NY into a reimagined community arts facility featuring an artists-in-residence program with on-site accommodations, flexible making spaces, exhibition galleries, resource library, and public garden. The original sanctuary was deconsecrated in 2008, when the congregation relocated to a nearby facility. After multiple attempts to renovate the structure fell short, our team assisted the clients by developing their unique vision into what will become a central creativity hub in the community.
Our approach recognizes the rich history of the facility, while celebrating contemporary interventions that facilitate a transcendence of typology. Demolition from prior restoration attempts revealed rustic wood framing throughout, and maintaining this exposure set up a compelling dialogue between past and present, allowing for the sublime geometry of the original structure to emerge in dramatic relief.
Additions to the space are expressed to accentuate their formal integrity while complementing original elements, and a revelation of light-filled volumes and rich material textures characterizes the spatial experience. Portraits of notable East End artists painted by our client, Eric Fischl, have been transferred to translucent film and mounted within the windows of the exhibit space to both welcome visitors and to emanate as illuminated beacons of the community. They present themselves as a modern interpretation of traditional stained-glass windows.
The Church project presented us with a whole host of challenges, but they were mostly the kind that architects love to tackle. Of particular significance were the ones posed by the approach we chose to take to the project as a whole. This was the idea that the best way to celebrate the historic nature of the structure would be to bring it out in stark contrast to the modern interventions we would create both to satisfy the program and to breathe new life into the venerable structure.
This involved finding ways to insulate the walls and roof without detracting from the appreciation of the purity and authenticity of the massive timber frame. It manifested itself in the adaptive re-use of the original wood lath strips that carried the plaster finish of the original interior walls, utilizing them to sheathe the box-like enclosures of the Director’s office and the washroom facilities. And it motivated us to insert the mezzanine and library by floating them off the perimeter walls through the deployment of glass floor elements and metal grating.
We developed a language of modern insertions that were designated by materiality and color as well, with all new elements (steel stairs, new beams, delicate metal railings and massive, 20-foot-tall windows) being painted a neutral, graphite grey, while the new flooring and other wood elements would be faced in a pale white oak. With these and other design considerations, we were able to evoke a dialogue between the historic and the new that bestowed integrity to both while creating a place that offers up very much its own character.
At the ground floor, the space has been completely opened up to create a flexible studio & making space that is embraced on all sides by 22-inch-thick stone masonry walls. New spatial volumes inserted into this raw creative space are clad in reclaimed wood lath, accentuating their formal differentiation while complementing the historic wood framing. Window and door openings around the perimeter bring ample light into the space, highlighting the richness and texture of the natural materials. To the south, the doors open to a sunken terrace and public garden.
The mezzanine level is expressed as a floating element between the main floor and the soaring roof trusses above and achieves lightness by presenting itself as a slender plane clad in pale white oak finishes and a high-contrast white underside. Interconnection between all levels is facilitated by a crystalline glass elevator and minimal steel and wood stairways, with both providing another counterpoint to the rustic qualities found in the original wood framing.
Facade cladding: Liberty Cedar (manufacturer) / Atlantic White Cedar Bevel Siding / custom
stain paint finish
Flooring: Main Level and Mezzanine: Oak
Lower Level (Studios): Concrete
Doors: Marvin (manufacturer) Aluminum Clad French Door / (description): outswing
french doors with egress hardware
Windows: Marvin / Aluminum Clad Contemporary Casement / wood windows with
aluminum clad exterior finish
Roofing: GAF (manufacturer) Timberline HD (product) – (description) asphalt fiberglass shingles
Interior lighting: Luminis Lighting (interior ambient)
USAI Lighting (downlights)
Intense Lighting (track lighting)
Ecosense (cove lighting)
Lighting Controls: Lutron
Interior furniture: Custom-built desk and worktables by Thomas Brokish
Hardware: Baldwin (locksets); Yale (closers and exit devices)
Elevator: Savaria (Northern Lifts & Westhampton Architectural Glass)