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VOL. 127 | NO. 80 | Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Uplifting Spaces

Two local churches designed by Hord Architects now under way

By Sarah Baker

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Two Memphis-area churches are under way, both designed by Hord Architects, a local firm that specializes exclusively in maximizing the budgets of nonprofit clients.

St. Elisabeth’s Episcopal Church, above, is one of two houses of worship that Hord Architects currently has in the works in the Memphis area. 

(Rendering: Courtesy of Hord Architects)

The first is Cordova Presbyterian Church, 8707 Fay Road, on the south side of Fay and west of Sanga Road.

The church plans to tear down its old sanctuary and construct a new one spanning 12,000 square feet. The building will have an entrance on Sanga and will provide expanded worship space, offices and classrooms, as well as additional parking.

Carter Hord, principal of Hord Architects, said the goal with Cordova Presbyterian was to design a building that raised the profile of the church on Sanga Road, a more heavily traveled street than Fay.

“Even though their land touches Sanga, which is a high-profile street with more traffic, you can’t really see the church from Sanga,” Hord said. “One of the unique features of this design is that it will have a corner bell tower with spire that anchors the corner of the building and you’ll be able to see it from both Fay and Sanga roads. We designed a building that is clearly identifiable as a worship space, but it will tie in visually with the appearance of the existing fellowship building so that it looks like it belongs and it’ll be read as a campus of buildings that are all part of the same aesthetic.”

About half of Hord Architects’ work is local. Since the firm’s founding in 1957, Hord Architects has designed more than 150 churches from New York to Tennessee to Minnesota.

“Even though we specialize in churches and have done so many, every one is different,” Hord said. “The success I think lies in really getting to know your clients’ needs in a careful and deliberate way. It’s always a challenge because churches never have a lot of money; they always have limited funds. Our goal is to give them as much for their money as possible.”

Also seasoned in the religious sector is construction firm Grinder, Taber & Grinder Inc., the general contractor of record for Cordova Presbyterian. The firm has worked with Second Presbyterian Church, St. George’s Episcopal Church and First United Methodist.

Fred Grinder, vice president of Grinder, Taber & Grinder, said it was important to preserve the church’s history, which dates back to the 1800s.

“It’s a beautiful facility,” Grinder said. “It’s a nice-looking sanctuary similar to St. George’s architecture with the lap siding and appearance, with a nice walkway between existing facilities and the new facilities.”

Cordova Presbyterian is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, Hord Architects is also working with St. Elisabeth’s Episcopal Church on a new worship space on 38 acres at the southeast corner of Old Brownsville and Billy Maher roads east of Austin Peay Highway.

The church was originally built next to the Raleigh Springs Mall in 1960. As those neighborhoods transitioned, the church tried to reach out to those neighborhoods but couldn’t do that effectively and ultimately made the tough choice to sell the property and move.

The property is adjacent to the St. Columba Episcopal Conference & Retreat Center, and is the first phase of a multiple phase master plan, said the Rev. William Murray. The planning of St. Elisabeth’s dates back to September 2001.

“Part of the goal there is it’ll be directly adjacent to the conference center for the diocese – for the larger community of churches in West Tennessee for the Episcopal Church,” Murray said. “That conference center doesn’t have a chapel, so we’ll be the chapel for the conference center and it’ll be a good way to sort of share space. We have 40 acres and they have 150, so between the two of us, we’ll have almost 200 acres of property to use for camps and retreats and conferences.”

The general contractor for the project is Linkous Construction LLC. Brandon Speakman, Linkous project manager and estimator, said working with a church varies from other commercial buildings in that it usually entails passing decisions through volunteers.

“A lot of times when you’ve got a commercial building, you may have one guy that’s the boss,” Speakman said. “Usually, with a church, you have to go through a committee process on nearly every decision because everybody feels so responsible for the money. It’s very much like building a home, but for 22-25, whatever the number of people that are on the building committee, you’ve got that many people that are owners.”

St. Elisabeth’s building will be Gothic revival design, a style of architecture that Hord said has been used for centuries as a way to convey a transcendent and uplifting space. The church is scheduled to be completed by April 2013.

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