Working within the established program goals and constraints of the site, the landscape architect collaborated with the Church to completely revision the two spaces considering congregational use, access and interface with the city environment. Both spaces are simple, quiet, and thoughtful in their spatial arrangements and material palette.

The key design element is a perforated copper fence that abstracts the iconography of the Church while acting as a permeable membrane between the private memorial spaces and the public realm. The Church’s initial vision for the exposed edge of the site was a dry-stacked limestone wall and a metal picket fence to meet the code requirement for a public guard rail; the vision deferred to the traditional relationship between historical church and city. However, after repeated contemplative site visits, sketch studies, and mock-ups, the landscape architect proposed what is now the public edifice of the northern site: a continuous veil of perforated copper.

For Westminster, the new copper fence pays homage to the institution’s historical architecture and is a reflection of a strong commitment to arts and design and progressiveness within the Presbyterian Church and the City. At the public sidewalk edge, an eight foot tall metal scrim abstracts a prominent image found repeated throughout many of Westminster’s stained glass windows. This ephemeral pattern runs along the entire length of both sites with a break in the center for the existing entrance.

The fence is composed of two panels of perforated copper, separated by an eight inch metal frame. The patterned panel faces out towards the public realm, and was created by filling in the perforations to create the abstracted pattern; the final pattern is the result of months and months of constant study, trial, and critique. A straight perforated panel faces inward, to the private realm, offering related, but different visual experiences for the courtyard occupant and street passerby. The scrim reflects not only the Church’s architecture but sculptural elements of M. Paul Friedberg’s adjacent Peavey Plaza. The pattern and the varying degrees of porosity create a moiré effect, offering constant illusions of movement depending upon the angle or speed of viewing. The overall effect is mystical, recalling the deep spiritual mission of the Church.

As the scrim conceals the grade change from sidewalk to memorial space, the Memorial Columbarium space is accessed via sloped walk. A custom ipe-wood and stainless steel bench parallels the columbarium wall, which is the focal point of the space. The design of the custom limestone columbarium recalls the character of the historic stone church but is detailed and executed in a contemporary manner.

The Fellowship Courtyard is accessed by stairs and consists of clay brick paving, linear gardens of honey locust trees and creeping thyme, and a series of custom ipe-wood and stainless steel benches. The landscape architect designed a narrow, stainless steel water rill that parallels the street and extends the linear form of the columbarium wall into the Fellowship Courtyard. The gently flowing water element mirrors the sky within the courtyard and provides a soothing auditory experience for the space, muting noise from the adjacent street.


CLIENT: Westminster Presbyterian Church

LOCATION: Minneapolis, Minnesota

COLLABORATORS: Westminster Presbyterian Church

SIZE: 11,000 SF/ 0.25 Acres

RECOGNITION: 2009 ASLA Honor Award, National, 2009 ASLA Award, Minnesota Chapter