The Church by Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership

The Church is a stunning exhibition space / gallery located in Sag Harbor, New York, designed in 2020 by Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership.

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The Church, located in Sag Harbor, New York, is a 12,000 square foot comprehensive adaptive reuse and restoration project that returns the once-shuttered religious structure back to the community as a vibrant center for creativity. Developed in close collaboration with the clients, the reimagined facility features an artist-in-residence program with on-site accommodations, flexible making spaces, exhibition galleries, a resource library, and a public garden.

The original 1836 sanctuary housed the Methodist Church of Sag Harbor until 2008, when the congregation relocated to a nearby facility. After multiple attempts to renovate the structure fell short, our team assisted the clients by developing their unique vision into what will become a central creativity hub in the community.

Our approach recognizes the rich history of the facility while celebrating contemporary interventions that facilitate the transcendence of typology. Demolition from prior restoration attempts revealed rustic wood framing throughout and maintaining this exposure set up a compelling dialogue between past and present, allowing for the sublime geometry of the original structure to emerge in dramatic relief.

Additions to the space are expressed to accentuate their formal integrity while complementing original elements, and a revelation of light-filled volumes and rich material textures characterizes the spatial experience. Portraits of notable East End artists painted by our client, Eric Fischl, have been transferred to translucent film and mounted within the windows of the exhibit space to both welcome visitors and to emanate as illuminated beacons of the community. They present themselves as a modern interpretation of traditional stained-glass windows.

On the ground floor, the space has been completely opened up to create a flexible studio & making space that is embraced on all sides by 22-inch-thick stone masonry walls. New spatial volumes inserted into this raw creative space are clad in reclaimed wood lath, accentuating their formal differentiation while complementing the historic wood framing. Window and door openings around the perimeter bring ample light into the space, highlighting the richness and texture of the natural materials. To the south, the doors open to a sunken terrace and public garden.

The main floor, accessed through the restored east façade entry portal and foyer, retains much of the processional sequence from its time as a sanctuary. However, a stark contrast in experience is found upon passing through the entry doors into the immediate reveal of the exposed double-height space of the main exhibition hall beyond. The revelation of these light-filled spaces draws one up and into the experience of a range of events, including artist talks, readings, lectures, performances, community events, and educational programming.

The mezzanine level is expressed as a floating element between the main floor and the soaring roof trusses above and achieves lightness by presenting itself as a slender plane clad in pale white oak finishes and a high-contrast white underside. Interconnection between all levels is facilitated by a crystalline glass elevator and minimal steel and wood stairways, with both providing another counterpoint to the rustic qualities found in the original wood framing.

Photography courtesy of Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership

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- by Matt Watts