Extreme Makeover


Saint Nicholas Eastern Orthodox Church is located in Springdale, Arkansas. Its architect, Marlon Blackwell, told me the story. The congregation had bought a piece of land for their new church that included a three-truck metal garage. Having a very limited budget, the congregation asked him to convert the garage into a church. The unlikely result is an extremely  modest building that successfully confronts a neighboring interstate highway, accommodates the liturgical requirements of the Orthodox rite, and manages to create a strong architectural presence in the process. The exterior has shades of Tadao Ando’s Church of Light and Robert Venturi’s Fire Station Number Four, as well as a vaguely Corbusian canopy. What I liked most was the interior. The bare white walls, bathed by morning light coming through an east-facing transom turn out to be a perfect setting for the richly colored icons and traditional wall paintings of the sanctuary. An Orthodox church needs a dome, and in this one it is made from a recycled satellite dish inserted in the ceiling and adorned with an iconic image. Doing more with less.


One Response to Extreme Makeover

  • Serge Young says:

    I enjoyed this post. It just goes to show that when architects have many constraints they often do there best work. This story reminds me a little about another great religous structure in Arkansas. Fay Jones had a tight budget when he design Thorncrown Chapel.

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