The Church of Saint Sarkis is modeled on the ancient Armenian church of Saint Hripsime which was built in 618AD and still stands near Armenia’s modern capital of Yerevan. The cornerstone of Saint Sarkis was laid exactly fourteen centuries later in 2018.
The west facade of the church serves as a subtle but powerful memorial to the 1.5 million victims of the 1915 Armenian genocide, a cataclysmic event that forced the families of many members of the congregation from of their historic homeland east of Mount Ararat. Constructed as a ventilated rainscreen from porcelain panels digitally printed at high resolution, the façade depicts a traditional Armenian cross or “tree of life” composed of interwoven botanical and geometrical motifs drawn from Armenian art. As a visitor approaches, the overall façade design dissolves into 1.5 million tiny ornaments or pixels, derived from the circular emblems that recur throughout the Armenian artistic tradition. The individual pixels were generated by a computer script to make every pixel unique.
Each individual pixel represents one of the 1.5 million individuals who perished in the 1915 Armenian genocide.
Upon stepping through the memorial façade, the visitor emerges into the sanctuary, a spatial composition modeled on the interior of Saint Hripsime. The doubly-curved plaster vaults that shape the interior space were fabricated in glass-fiber-reinforced gypsum directly from the architect’s computer model. Concave glass-fiber-reinforced concrete light coves sculpted into the exterior filter out the direct solar heat and glare while reflecting the powerful Texas sunlight indirectly into the interior space, resulting in an ethereal quality of illumination. The interior vaults are smooth and scaleless, with no visible lighting fixtures, air-conditioning registers or other contemporary technical details to interrupt luminous spatial figure, which carries the memory of the sanctuary of Saint Hripsime across 1,400 years and 8,000 miles to this site overlooking the vast Texas plan.