Grace Episcopal Church

Bainbridge Island, Washington

The congregation of this church purchased ten acres of clear cut land and engaged an architect to design a building to both house them and reflect their beliefs. The architects organized the procession to entry on axis with the sole surviving large tree on the property. The arrival sequence is designed to provide the congregants first with a focused view of the church and then turn them into a parking circle. Once parked, they walk on a circular path, which gradually pulls them away from the cars and into the domain of grace.

Upon arriving at the structure’s entry court, they are greeted by a baptismal font, which was carved from a glacial boulder unearthed during construction. Water flows into the font from a zinc strip inlaid into the rock. In an attempt to symbolize the Alpha and Omega of one’s life as a Christian, the zinc runs down the font and continues on axis to eventually become the vertical member of the cross at the opposite end of the sanctuary. The sanctuary is formed by four battered concrete piers that support 56-foot long wood/steel trusses. The lone piers absorb the lateral loads, while the trusses carry the gravity load of the rafters. To further reinforce the architect’s beliefs that God manifests in the physics of the world, the horizontal member of the cross doubles as the lateral wind loading brace for the windows.

In trying to execute a consistent design, the members of the church also engaged the architects to design the entry doors, handles, lights, candlesticks, altar, lectern and chairs.

The total structure defines the central sanctuary surrounded by courtyards, offices, a convertible parish hall and classrooms. The architects generated this parti in an effort to show that all of these secondary functions grow out of the presence and meaning of the sanctuary.


– Design Honor Award, 2003
Interfaith Forum on Religion, Art, and Architecture