Friday, June 3, 2011

Gunnar Birkerts: Church of the Servant

Exterior view (south elevation) of the Church of the Servant, Kentwood, Michigan—composite photograph by versluis, 2011. A newer entry foyer and narthex has been added to the front of the original building, which was designed by architect, Gunnar Birkerts in the late 1980s and constructed in the early 1990s.

Below is one of the whimsical concept sketches indicating recommended paint colors. Image is courtesy of Bentley Image Bank: Birkerts, Gunnar. Church of the Servant, Kentwood, Michigan, 1988-1994; BL000711. 2011. Bentley Historical Library, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Web. 3 June 2011.

Indeed the exterior design highlights the use and meaning of the interior space. The church’s website describes Birkerts’s architectural concept and the significance of the steeple apex as follows:

When Gunnar Birkerts designed the church, he conceived it using the metaphor of a village encircling a town square. Viewing Church of the Servant from the outside, the patchwork of colors gives the impression of a bustling city. Upon entering the building, the “village” gives way to a “town square”—that is, the sanctuary. At the center of this town square/worship space is steel “tree” reaching 60 feet into the sky that holds up a 32-foot diameter translucent skylight, allowing the light of God’s good creation to stream down on worshipers as they join in a circle around the Lord’s table. [1]
  1. Scheer, Greg. Liturgy Lesson: Beneath the Tree of Life. Church of the Servant, n.d. Web. 4 June 2011.

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