The 65,000 SF new Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church creates a contemporary space for community, learning, and worship. Clad in a sleek, light-colored limestone, the exterior walls angle upward, revealing two key parts of the program: the more public-facing, glass-encased floors of multi-function spaces and classrooms, transitioning into a more private main sanctuary that sits behind the stone wall and subtly rises above the diagonal form.
The main sanctuary seats 1,200 and is conceived as a completely internally focused space.
Its minimalistic design is unadorned with the iconography and symbolism typical in Christian churches, relying instead on volume, light, and shadow to engage its occupants. With 40-foot ceilings, the sanctuary has stained-glass clerestories that line the top of the walls and allow daylight to pour in, taking advantage of the building’s mostly east-facing orientation and encouraging congregants to look upwards as they pray.
The glass-enclosed spaces contain classrooms, communal areas, and administrative offices, transparent and linked with the community through floor-to-ceiling windows.
This glazed section of the building throws off a welcoming glow at night, drawing people in for social events and gatherings and providing an organic internal connection to the inner sanctuary for worship. Above the multi-purpose area is a roof deck, currently under construction. Originally planned before COVID-19 as a spillover space for children’s activities, the space evolved in concept to become an essential support space for the church.
The building’s diagonal form rises up to form a protective border around the roof deck, with a continuation of the glass wall beneath it providing aerial views across the neighborhood. Passive solar strategies allow walls to reflect heat and ensure the space can be used comfortably and efficiently even in cooler weather.
With capacity to fit a large part of Elim’s congregation, the space can be flexibly used for worship, formal church service, or social activities – a crucial amenity in the event of future public health emergencies that may affect continuation of services..