Posted in projects on March 31, 2017 12:23 pm EDT

Preserving Sanctity

Architectural and AVL design considerations for historic sacred space preservation.

Before starting any preservation job, [architects must ask] one all-important question: What can we change? “Sometimes the answer is nothing, I mean not even a doorknob, and sometimes it is more generous. It’s all jurisdictional.” -- John Storyk, Principal, Walters-Storyk Design Group, Highland, NY











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TAGS: historic preservation, historical buildings,


By Keith Loria

The United States is filled with historic churches that date back as many as 300 or 400 years. And while most would love to keep these structures in their original forms, because of weather, age and other factors, sometimes elements need to be repaired or replaced to restore them to their former glory.

In 2016, the 50th anniversary of the commissioning of the National Historic Preservation Act will occur. Over the past five decades, architects and designers have had to play by the rules of this law to ensure that they didn’t damage or change anything in a historic or landmarked building that would hurt its intrinsic value.

What’s at stake?

According to Joseph Winkelmann, project architect for Larson & Darby Group, an architectural and engineering firm in Rockford, Ill., the Preservation Act places a high premium on the retention of all historic fabric through conservation, maintenance and repair. It reflects a building’s continuum over time, through successive occupancies, and the respectful changes and alterations that are made.

In addition to money, an important thing is learning what timeframe a facility is interested in restoring the building to, as many churches incorporate features from different years—and sometimes even centuries.

“If the building is registered at as a historic site, you need to know what degree it is as each degree has different requirements,” he says. “Certain municipalities may have different restrictions and a particular site may be more historic than another. If it has a high premium of historic content to its history, requirements are much more strict.”

Choosing the most appropriate treatment for a building requires careful decision-making about its historic significance, as well as taking into account considerations such as its relative importance to history, its physical condition, proposed use, and mandated code requirements.

John Storyk, principal for Walters-Storyk Design Group in Highland, N.Y., has worked on numerous historic churches in his time, and before starting any preservation job, asks this all-important question: “What can we change?”

“Sometimes the answer is nothing, I mean not even a doorknob, and sometimes it is more generous,” he says. “It’s all jurisdictional. You have to wrestle with each project and I like to think nothing is set in stone.”  continued >>