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Our Very First Project

Begun in 1966, and completed in 1969, St. James Roman Catholic Church of Cazenovia is one of the first major projects completed by our firm.

This project was originally conceived of by the then Pastor, Rev. A. Robert Casey, to replace the small country-style church building which was no longer able to accommodate the needs of the growing Parish. These needs included: Larger Worship Space, with better sight-lines and sound, space for Youth Faith Formation, and a Parish Hall for various types of gatherings. Father Casey and Jack Teitsch worked closely together on a variety of design concepts to solve these problems.

As the design progressed, at least six different concepts were reviewed. One of these included a primarily rectilinear design (orthogonal to the street grid). Another was a concentric design with the classrooms, etc. around a large central worship area. The final design was based on a regular structural grid and a wall geometry of 135 degree angles. This concept, rather than a plan based on 90 degree corners, results in spaces that “feel” more open, and less confining, as the walls open up more quickly.

Another element integral to the building’s design was the selection of a special brick for both the exterior, and interior wall surfaces. This “skintled” brick was specially manufactured with a articulate surface texture, and is set in such a way to produce a very textured finish. The masonry work for this project won the 1970 Craftsmanship Award from the American Society of Architects.

The final design includes the large worship space, with a smaller “Daily Mass Chapel” to the back. This is separated by a glazed partition so that the chapel space can also function as overflow space to the main Church for larger gatherings. To the west of the main space, separated by a corridor is a Parish Hall that can be separated by removable partitions to create a series of religious education classrooms, a parlor (living room type space) and kitchen to serve the hall.

The main worship space is focused on a large, east facing clerestory window, over the altar area that provides all the natural light to the room. This single light source, over the sanctuary, was designed as a modern response to the more traditional configuration of nave windows and sanctuary apse. The “single source” of light emphasizes the significance of the sanctuary and focuses attention on the center of the liturgical celebration, as well as the location of the Altar of Repose and the Tabernacle.

St. James was one of the earliest Church Buildings constructed in Central New York in response to the changes that took place as a result of the Second Vatican Council. Jack and Father Casey were strongly influenced by the information that was being developed at the time, but in a time long before the internet, had to rely on contacts, preliminary drafts of information, and what very few projects had been built at the time. St. James was very much on the cutting edge of Catholic Church design in the 1970’s when it was built, and remains a strong, tightly focused expression of the “fresh breeze blowing through the Church” that happened after Vatican 2.

St. James remains a strikingly modern building in the Village of Cazenovia, sometimes controversial, but a true and confident expression of the devotion and faith of the parish that created it. From an architectural point of view, the building’s design, and the materials used make this a uniquely contemplative space which has served the Cazenovia community well for more than five decades.

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