Emerging Architecture Awards

Honourable mention

Abramson Teiger Architects

First Presbyterian Church

Encino, California, USA

December 2004
All members of the ar+d jury were convinced that the transformation of the First Presbyterian Church of Encino in California deserved a mention in the awards. Abramson Teiger Architects have taken a rather gloomy 50s A-frame based church and transformed it with light. The twin aim was to create a numinous space and to generate a sense of congregation and reverie. So the floor of the chancel was lowered and brought forward to bring pastor and choir closer to the congregation. Seating was re-arranged to focus on the communion table (altar) and the cross.
Approach to the communion table is an articulated sequence of spatial and luminous events. In the narthex, daylight enters from a mysterious source overhead; the main sanctuary is seen only in glimpses. In the nave, the congregation receives light from large openings to the north, and smaller ones on the south side. The sanctuary itself is the most brilliantly illuminated part of the church. Here, two vertical curved elements are flooded with daylight from different sources. They focus the space on the cross, and the more abstract version of the symbol on the support behind which itself is touched with coloured light from the existing stained-glass windows. All elements of the interior are intended to be symbolic. In the two vertical curving planes are reminiscences of the hands in prayer; the choir and communion table are likened by the architects to the dove of Christ, sheltering the choir with its wing, and offering its heart as the place of communion.
Such symbolism was certainly not apparent to all jury members, but we all respected the way in which an atmosphere of almost Baroque wonder and intensity has been created with economy and powerful imagination.

Abramson Teiger Architects, Culver City
Project team
Trevor Abramson, Douglas Teiger, Michael Cranfill,
Patrick Le Master, Warren Tamashiro
Richard Barnes