Jefferson Presbyterian Church

4450 Jefferson Hwy.
Jefferson, Louisiana

2012
Warm but minimal chapel inspired by an “economy of means” and religious iconography for a small congregation whose previous church had been destroyed by fire.
Jefferson Presbyterian Church, client
3,000 sf
$760,000 / $253 per sf
Collaborators:

Wayne Troyer
Julie Babin

2015 AIA New Orleans Honorable Mention

Photography:

FrannyS Photography

Project Type: Institutional

In 2008 Jefferson Presbyterian Church was struck by lighting and destroyed by fire. The JPC congregation immediately dedicated themselves to rebuilding the church and determined that the new design should be simple and functional, a direct result of both a limited budget and the desire for an austere worship space. The structure—reaching a height of thirty feet at its tallest wall—was creatively engineered using spliced 2×6 studs and supplemental steel. The concrete foundation doubles as the finished floor.

The central focus of the new facility is the sanctuary’s ceiling and chancel wall, both clad in local Louisiana cypress. The cypress, installed in a variety of widths and placed on an acoustical liner, adds warmth while also improving the acoustics of the sacred space. The ceiling’s shape, evolving from the symbol of “Christ, the fish”, quickly became an inspirational metaphor for the rebuilding efforts. Working with a local craftsman, the texture and geometry of the fish continuously evolved and became abstracted throughout construction. After completion, the congregants shared their own individual interpretations of the fish-shaped ceiling, often relating the shape to other religious icons including Noah’s Arc.

For the chancel, an aluminum Celtic cross from the original church was restored and placed as the central point of focus on the chancel. Surrounding the cross are small Carrera Marble hex tiles, which refract light and create a shimmering, fish-scale-like surface completing the rich fish iconography.