Westminster Presbyterian Church sits at a corner in downtown Minneapolis, an urban oasis seeking to provide a place of calm, prayer, and community to the surrounding neighborhood.  Given this location and constraint, the design strategy necessarily considers congregational use, exterior access, and overall interface with the city environment.


A key element of this interface 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.  While the Church initially envisioned a dry-stacked limestone wall, a series of site visits, workshops, and mock-ups revealed the necessity of a modern façade to welcome a constantly evolving urban core.  This copper element pays homage to the institution’s historical architecture and reflects the strong commitment to arts and progressiveness within the Presbyterian Church.  At the public sidewalk edge, the eight-foot-tall metal scrim abstracts a prominent image found repeated throughout many of Westminster’s stained-glass windows. The pattern and 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.


This ephemeral pattern runs along the entire length of the site with a short break in the center, where the neighborhood is welcomed to the internal courtyard along a sloped walkway.  Inside, the columbarium wall emerges as the focal point of the space, which is paralleled by a custom ipe-wood and stainless steel bench. The Fellowship Courtyard is constituted of a minimal palette of clay brick paving, creeping thyme, and a linear garden of honey locust trees. A narrow, stainless steel water rill parallels the street and extends the form of columbarium wall into the ground plane of the courtyard itself. This gently flowing water element mirrors the sky and provides a soothing auditory experience for the space, bringing together all the design elements in one cohesive moment of urban oasis.


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