Our Lady of Mr. Carmel Church (In progress)


Invited by Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, SJSW team re-envisioned the interior of their church in Staten Island. The 7,000 SF modern-style church building was originally dedicated by Terrence Cardinal Cooke April 26, 1968. The building was designed by the architecture firm of Genovese and Maddalen (Glenrock, NJ). In the same year, they also designed the Church of the Nativity on the Lower East Side. (Coincidentally, both parishes came under the care of the Jesuits.) Both buildings make use of the same design vocabulary, emphasizing basic geometric forms, fin-walls and large glass openings.

This proposal seeks to build on the existing architectural vocabulary to enhance the quality of the experience of the space to induce a greater sense of the sacred.

Though the overall building design has failed to induce the desired quality of spatial experience, the powerful geometry, spatial alignments, use of materials cannot be ignored. The building has an essential character that needs to be built upon. The temptation is to paint, apply decorations, and add new elements to perhaps make the space “feel” familiar and more “church-like.” This is a mistake. To do so is “to make superficial changes to something generally regarded with dislike or disfavor in a fruitless attempt to make it more appealing,”. It will only result in an unsatisfying disguise.

Our strategy is to build on the strengths of the original building design. Conceptually, the church is a brick cube, held off the ground by concrete structural fin-walls and corners, on top of a slate plaza. The chapel and the narthex are inserted between two structural fin-walls. In addition to the cube being separated at the corners, a large cylinder penetrates the cube from above the sanctuary to allow for natural light. Inside a soffit (balcony) runs around the perimeter of the cube to reinforce the feeling of the cube being lifted up and bringing attention to the sanctuary.