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Architecture that is simply divine

The Catholic Church of the Resurrection on Southwest Stafford Road is one of 40 churches featured in the 'Architecture for the Gods, Book III'
by: Jaime Valdez, DIVINE DESIGN — Father William Moisant (left) and Richard Akins stand in the entranceway of the Catholic Church of the Resurrection, which was recently recognized in a book about church architecture.

The contemporary design of a new church built on the site of an old horse stable is catching the attention of more than just passing motorists. The Church of the Resurrection, near Interstate 205, is receiving national recognition for its modern design for a worship space.

Members of the Church of the Resurrection had only one thing in mind when they accepted the design of Portland-based architect Chris DiLoreto. They wanted a space that would be uplifting and spiritual without sacrificing a sense of community.

DiLoreto's design took a sharp turn away from the darkened worship spaces of traditional Catholic cathedrals with towering steeples, dark colors and intrusive columns. His design called for natural light, a high focal point and space - lots of space.

Church member Richard Akins admits that the design on paper never did the building justice.

'There was no way to envision four stories of glass from a model,' Akins said.

The $4.2 million 14,000-square-foot church building was completed in 2002. The building is positioned across from the church's original worship site, a renovated horse stable. The Resurrection Catholic Parish first moved to its home along Southwest Stafford Road and Interstate 205 in 1992. Since then, church members worked on a design concept to accommodate the growing parish and to create high visibility for traffic on the highway.

But both church members and architect were surprised to hear this fall that Dr. Michael Crosbie featured the small church in a third installment of 'Architecture for the Gods.'

DiLoreto, who has completed more than 40 masterplans, remodels and new constructions for churches in the Pacific Northwest, had originally mailed Crosbie a brief summary on the church's design and some pictures of the interior for possible publication in 'Faith and Form,' a magazine published by the American Institute of Architects.

DiLoreto said he had no idea the church would be featured in a book.

The building's use of contemporary design undoubtedly contributed to its appeal for the book, DiLoreto said.

'It allows for the same worship but a new design,' he added.

Churchgoers enter through a pair of solid wood doors and are met with a ring of lights and a baptismal fountain. Beyond that, arched pews create a semi-circle with a center focus on the front altar. In the front a 12-foot statue of the resurrected Christ hangs suspended in the air by wires in the front as light from the south wall's skylight floods the church with natural light. The design of the building creates the effect of a floating ceiling. Windows line the walls where they meet the ceiling.

The four-story-high north wall is made mainly of glass windows. A sloped downgrade makes the parking lot below almost invisible and draws the attention upward over I-205 and across the hill-scattered landscape.

The floor, the unobtrusive columns and the ceiling beams are all made of concrete. With the major building blocks of concrete and glass, Akins calls the church 'simple but elegant.'

The sharp lines, simple décor and overall modern design were, at first, a little hard to swallow for some church members, Akins said. But after several gatherings in the church, which can seat 800 people, Akins said most members got used to it.

'(The building) turned out better than it was designed,' he said.