As a Christian pursuing my career in architecture, I often wrestle with what it means to see my faith expressed through the projects I work on. How do my design decisions help a client achieve their programmatic objectives, while at the same time being true to my sense of calling into architecture? I envision this blog being a series of thoughts towards my own understanding of faith, design, and the built environment.
Hope is a virtue that I think about quite a lot; what does it mean to have hope, to show hope, to lose hope? I had the chance to work through some of these questions recently as I designed the re-development of the Dr. John M. Perkins Centre in east Hamilton.
The Perkins Centre is a study in hope, really. Our challenge was to transform a gritty nightclub and rooming house into high-quality, high-value affordable housing for Homestead Christian Care. But what to do with a building that was so run down, so storied, so full of darkness—both physical and spiritual?
Natural light was the first strategy: there must be lots of it. Natural light is a powerful force. It affects how we cope with stress, our outlook on the world, the moods we feel. The building had been so full of darkness, with its black-painted walls and evidence of its former uses as grow-op, brothel, and gambling den still remaining. We cut a 400 square foot hole right through the center of the building,creating a light well that floods the two upper residential floors and the main floor community centre with light.
Complementing the natural light well, I designed a mobile with 216 doves, one for each of Homestead’s residents, suspended in flight. The doves represent God’s covenant (like in the story of Noah), the Holy Spirit (like in the story of Acts) and in this case, hope for the people who will live in or visit the building. Hope for east Hamilton.
Not every project lends itself to such gestures, but in this particular project there was so many opportunities to include symbols of restoration, such as reclaimed marble window sills made from the old shower dividers and the polished epoxy-coated concrete throughout the original parts of the building which reveal where the old walls and staircases stood. These architectural elements help “tell the story” of redemption. This does not look like a new building upon first glance but rather an adaptive reuse of an older building (which happens to be my favourite type of building for a community’s collective sense of hope– more on that later). As a Christian in the design profession, can I use my opportunities to point towards a future where hope is restored? As the name of this blog implies, my goal is to create spaces that are alive with hope, where those who occupy and even just pass through these spaces will be encouraged to flourish in their own life and work.
The mission of Intersection is to help our readers to see how the gospel of Jesus intersects & transforms all of life in a very real way. Our goal is to destroy the false & harmful dichotomy between 'the sacred' & 'the secular' by presenting a wide range of perspectives that focus on different aspects of life in the city. These stories, reflections, observations, & opinions all have one thing in common—the shared conviction that every arena of life can be holy & beautiful when it is lived out in full awareness of the gospel & in full submission to the leadership of Jesus. Although the Intersection team loves, values, & supports all of its contributors, the views expressed in their posts are ultimately their own & may not necessarily reflect the beliefs & values of New City Church.