Our New Sanctuary

The Underground Space

To minimize the impact of the new church on the neighborhood, we placed two-thirds of the building under ground, where it will not be visible to neighbors.

The below-ground portion of the building will be 46,064 square feet, 10,000 of which will be a large, open concourse and gallery area partially lit with skylights, enhanced with planters and benches, and decorated with murals. The generous size and the display of religious art in this spacious area are designed to mitigate the feeling of an enclosed space and provide inspiration for those who will work and visit on this lower level.


layout of underground portion of building

The underground concourse level will house the bookstore, which will be open to the public, chorus rehearsal studios, administrative offices, and spaces for our other activities.

A circular staircase will descend from the ground level to the Concourse, where the working spaces of the church will be located. This level will house the bookstore, which will be open to the public, administrative offices, and the kitchen and common area for church socials and benefits. It will also contain rehearsal space for our seventy-person chorus, audio and video studios for preparing our weekly lessons, and archive storage to properly care for thousands of photographs, films, audio and video recordings, artworks, books, and other materials that we consider historic treasures. This below-ground area will also house the building’s support and maintenance equipment.

The underground design was inspired by the Smithsonian's Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C., which is located below street level.

Positive Effects of Building Under Ground

  1. The visual presence of the sanctuary in the neighborhood is significantly reduced. Though expensive to do and technically challenging, reducing the visual presence was a major design goal from the beginning.
  2. The height of the surface structure will be lower than it otherwise would have been and the structure will have a smaller “footprint.”
  3. The gardens will be larger and the plantings more generous.
  4. The distance of the surface building from the street will be greater.
  5. The building will be quieter because much of the mechanical equipment will be under ground.
  6. There will be fewer hard surfaces like roofs to absorb sunlight, thus reducing the "heat-island effect." This effect is caused when asphalt and other hard surfaces absorb heat during the day and radiate it into the atmosphere at night. This can raise temperatures by as much as ten degrees and add to peak energy demand and air pollution.
  7. Energy efficiency will be increased because the earth itself will help cool the building in the summer and insulate it from the cold in winter.
  8. More permeable surfaces will increase the ability to properly process water runoff. Overall, the site will have eighteen percent less impermeable surface after the construction than it has now.