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Deep Dive: Christ Church

This project remains a personal favorite for current partners Brian and Dan.

Teitsch-Kent-Fay Architects, P.C. has been fortunate to assist a large number of clients over our more than half a century in business. A project that remains a personal favorite for current partners Brian and Dan is the Parish Center for Christ Church in Manlius. Christ Church Parish in Manlius is in the oldest church building in Onondaga County (built in 1813), this historic building had an extension added in the mid 20th century which included offices, a small hall, and kitchen. The spaces were not adequate to accommodate the 21st century needs of the parish, including: larger gathering space, space for outreach programs and counseling, religious education spaces, and child care.

This project represents a full circle moment for Dan, in that he went from being a junior assistant on religious projects to being the architect in charge. After interviewing and winning the commission for this new Parish Center, he was able to work with the client to develop the program of spaces needed, and eventually to design the entire complex. As a special memory, he even had the opportunity to visit a retired Jack Teitsch at home to discuss the design concepts. This helped complete the circle mentioned above, as Jack had always been a mentor to Dan and having the chance to discuss one of “his” Church Projects with Jack is something he will never forget.

Christ Church's new Parish Center occupies the corner of North and Seneca Streets in the Village of Manlius (actually one block from where Dan lived during middle and high school). Several existing buildings had to be removed to make space for the new work. As a corner site, the design is oriented such that the public space which is based on a “coffee shop” concept occupies the corner with views opening up into the Village. The parish priest at the time hoped to reach a younger audience and particularly liked this element to accomplish this goal.

An obstacle when creating a building like this is finding a way to connect the new and improved building with the historic building that previously existed. In this project we designed the new building to wrap around the courtyard garden. This connected the new structure back to the existing building while simultaneously allowing the stained glass windows to remain unobstructed by the new construction. This also created a quiet contemplation space with a fountain element and outdoor seating area.

A major challenge was that the Parish wanted a large assembly hall, but also wanted the project to harmonize with the existing residential neighborhood. As one committee person bluntly explained “we want a big hall, but we don’t want it to look like a big box.” The design eventually placed this large space in the center, with the smaller spaces such as the parlor, vestibule, and coffee shop, at the perimeter, allowing the exterior elevations to be a series of smaller, more residential elements, avoiding the “big box” issue.

This project remains an important one for Dan for two reasons. One reason is because of his personal connections to the neighborhood. The second being that this was one of the first projects that he and Brian were able to collaborate closely on. Brian took the design development work and used it to develop the construction drawings (blueprints and specifications), and both worked to shepherd the project through the various Zoning and Planning Board approvals.

Construction began in 2007 with Rich & Gardner as the contractor. Construction took place for approximately 16 months with the formal dedication of the building by Bishop Gladstone in 2009. The building continues to serve the Parish, and allow them space for their outreach programs to the neighborhood and larger community. To this day this project holds a great significance to Dan and Brian, we hope that the parish and community of Manlius feels the same.

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