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Erdy McHenry Architecture
915 Orianna Street
Philadelphia PA 19123
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St. Aloysius Church

Two significant conceptual explorations gave form to the design for this church— “re-pitching the tent” and the four devotions of St. Aloysius.

“Repitching the tent”, expressed in the delicate soaring roof lines, evokes the concept of simple worship. The roof is drawn from Old Testament references to pitching of the tent as a place for worship, and New Testament revival references to re-pitching the tent. The metaphor of a tent yields a building rich in concept and formal expression.

The Four Devotions of St. Aloysius – Blessed Sacrament, Passion of Our Lord, Love of Our Lady, and Choir of Angels – sit adjacent to the large concrete buttresses that anchor the roof.

  • White cleft stone walls create the Adoration Chapel, which is centered upon the altar and lit from above via a rooftop skylight.
  • Locating the baptismal font near the entry reminds the congregants of the cleansing associated with their baptism.
  • The sacristy floats below the roof structure and is set in from the exterior wall, which allows worshipers to circulate around the sacristy and the statue of the Virgin Mary.
  • The choir is integrated as part of the congregation, not as a special element by the altar. This provides greater interaction within the congregation and does not distract from the liturgical activity.

The entry sequence exploits the social implications of gathering for worship. The relationship to parking dictates a singular approach through a series of increasingly intimate spaces that prepare congregants for worship in communion with their fellow parishioners. An intimate courtyard is formed between the gathering space and the daily chapel, which allows viewers to visually connect with the sanctuary prior to entering the building. Passing through the gathering space, which connects the new church to the existing, one passes the Baptismal Font while entering the sanctuary. The Baptismal is located axially opposite the altar and the Adoration Chapel. This relationship connects the congregation to both the Baptismal and the Blessed Sacrament upon entering and departing the sanctuary.

Radiant underfloor heating was employed to create a comfortable environment within the large open space of the sanctuary. In addition, extended overhangs around the building reduce the cooling load by reduction of heat build-up due to solar heat gain. Large infiltration basins and cisterns adjacent to the structure capture and filter the storm-water from the building’s roof.