By Dustin Soll
The Friends Meetinghouse located in San Antonio, Texas is an award winning project by Lake/Flato Architects. The architects faced many unique challenges with this project, the first of which was to design a new meetinghouse for a Quaker congregation located on a site which was surrounded by noisy streets and apartment complexes. Noise was of great concern, because the Quakers are a calm and humble group of people who would need quiet surrounding in which to study and congregate. In order to mitigate any noise concerns, the main gathering hall of the 4,800ft2 building was located at the very back of the site in a drainage area surrounded by native plants (Kolleeny, 2008).
Another challenge associated with the site was the need to find a way to create an environment that would be able to create a state of mind among the parishioners of study and focus, while being located in such an unpleasant area. This problem was in addressed through thorough site development. First, one enters the site onto a winding pathway that is surrounded by plants and trees to block the urban surroundings. The path was intended to settle one’s mind along the pleasant journey. At the end of the path, one is greeted by a wood gate set in limestone, which gives a sense of arrival (Kolleeny, 2008).
Once one has entered through the gate, the journey continues to and through the building until reaching the worship space (Kolleeny, 2008). The designers clearly used age old ritualistic pilgrimage model of “gate”, “path”, and “place” which Hoffman (2010) mentioned numerous times in his book Seeking the Sacred in Contemporary Religious Architecture.
The design of the building is reminiscent of the first Quaker meeting houses. Lake/Flato incorporated the use of unembellished inexpensive materials, and simple geometry to create a building that promotes humility.
Hoffman, D. (2010). Seeking The Sacred In Contemporary Religious Architecture. Kent, Ohio. The Kent State University Press.
Kolleeny, J.F. (2008). Friends Meetinghouse. Architectural Record.
Lake Flato Architects. Friends Meetinghouse. http://www.lakeflato.com/projects/friends-meetinghouse/