By Raj Dayal
A Mississippi Catholic church is designed to complement the liturgical needs of worship.
The leadership of Christ the King Catholic Church in Southaven, MS, focused the design for their new facility in three directions: spiritual, environmental and community. “It was very important for the building to demonstrate a Catholic presence in Southaven to assist people as they transition to a reflective mindset and to celebrate the church as a sacred place through design,” says Joe Wieronski, project designer, Askew Nixon Ferguson Architects, Memphis, TN.
The church’s leaders desired a facility that evoked the idea of a Catholic church. This was a challenge for the design team because this idea can constitute a multitude of styles. “We decided to use older materials that reminded us of permanency and tradition, reminiscent of older Catholic churches made of stone,” says Wieronski.
The design of the church incorporated two colors of split-faced block and terrazzo floors. The design team also employed four large round windows. “It was our goal to combine images and materials to help blend the requirements of traditional ministry with the needs and comfort of a contemporary facility,” Wieronski says.
Reinforces Catholic image
The many design facets of Christ the King had to serve a distinct liturgical purpose. “The placement of objects central to worship was integral to the design of the sanctuary,” Wieronski says. “The baptismal font was given a central location near the entry. The granite, limestone and glass of the baptismal reinforce the traditional Catholic image desired by the church and still displays elements of contemporary design.”
All of the areas of worship in the church were carefully placed so that each would communicate with at least one other facet of the design. “The Reconciliation is placed in relation to the baptismal, and the altar platform and table relate to the tabernacle and baptismal,” says Wieronski. “The assembly (sanctuary) provides U-shaped seating around the altar table and the tabernacle and Eucharistic reservation chapel are situated so that they could be accessed 24 hours-a-day.” A private devotional shrine is also included.
The leaders of Christ the King sought a church that emphasized permanency and consecration. The materials used by the design team helped to carry out this request. “The sanctuary is separated from the Eucharistic chapel with an art glass and wood screen,” Wieronski says. “Split-faced block walls have a grounding effect, while steel trusses draw eyes upward and offer light and weightlessness in contrast to the heaviness of the stone.”
Light moves through the space
The inclusion of natural light plays a significant role within the church. In the Eucharistic chapel and tabernacle, punched windows allow daylight to move through the space. “The large stained glass window above the altar draws attention upward and the smaller flanking windows provide lighting in the space,” Wieronski says. “The small square punched windows in the rear of the assembly provide views to the old-growth trees outside and allow morning light to come in from the curved wall.”
The church leaders wanted to maintain as many of the existing trees as possible to minimize the extensive parking separating the church from the surrounding landscape. The church offers outdoor as well as indoor gathering spaces which helps promote community involvement.
The design of Christ the King Church focuses on the functional requirements that meet the needs of its parishioners. The design team carried out the request of the church’s leadership and created a church that incorporates the aesthetic of Catholic churches of the past with contemporary elements.