Last Friday, WUSA9 ran a segment on the recently completed Riverside Baptist Church at The Wharf in Southwest DC. The segment captures a great deal of information in a short video. Not only does it illustrate the character of the space and the attention to detail, it also talks to the history of the church and the development opportunity that led Riverside to a new building on its own site.
The video can be viewed here: Riverside Baptist Church is renewed.
For several years before GBR was formally engaged in 2013, Riverside had been exploring options on how to best utilize their real estate assets to overcome mounting maintenance issues. At that time, the church was poised to move forward with PN Hoffman with a Letter of Intent to redevelop their site and replace the building that had been their home since 1967. While not an uncommon solution for an urban church with an aging building, an imperative for Riverside was to engage their own architect to act on their behalf rather than cede full design responsibility to the developer.
In the resulting collaboration between church, architects, developer and contractor, GBR maintained a focus on creating an iconic facility uniquely suited to Riverside Baptist – its history, culture and vision for the future. Early discussions with the congregation pointed to a welcoming building that embodies a strong connection with the community. Also important was to connect the new church to its 160-year history in Southwest DC. This is best illustrated through the reuse of materials from the former building. In particular, the random ashlar field stone and stained glass windows salvaged from the 1967 church building.
The overall building form clearly expresses the three elements of a place of worship: a visible entrance, an identity as a church, and a clarity in the presence of a worship space.
- The transparent corner at 7th Street SW and Maine Avenue visually connects to The Wharf development. This is also where the largest of the salvaged stained glass units are displayed. The triangular windows are back-lit to create an art installation that marks the entry to the building and leads up to the worship space above.
- The bell tower, a clear and common reference to a Christian church, anchors the corner and is topped by another symbol and identity reference, a cross.
- The worship space is represented by a wall of glass formed to represent water – a reference to one of the most fundamental ideologies of the Baptist faith. The wave inspired roof form is another expression of the significance of water, while simultaneously rooting the church to its neighborhood along the waterfront. The building form is deliberately and distinctly different from the architectural expression of larger buildings along Maine Avenue.