Baptist Temple

DATE: 2010
LOCATION: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
OLD USE: Baptist church
NEW USE: Performance and event space


History

Built in 1891, this Victorian Romanesque-revival church in Philadelphia was the home of Grace Baptist Church. The church was founded along with Temple University a few years earlier by Massachusetts preacher Russell H. Conwell. It remained as a church until the mid-1970s when the congregation moved out to a larger building.[1] It was purchased by Temple University in 1974. The building was later certified by the Philadelphia Historical Commission in 1984, which was then followed by the American Institute of Architects designating it as a Landmark Building in 2003.[2]

(Re)Developer

Founded in 1884 as Temple College, Temple University has eight campuses which include locations in Rome and Tokyo. “Temple University is a national center of excellence in teaching and research with an international presence.”

RMJM is an international architectural firm that specializes in architecture, sustainable design, urbanism, masterplanning, interior design and research and development. The firm is committed to the care and improvement of the environment and the communities in which it operates and has taken a leading role in promoting environmental best practice and the move towards sustainability. This commitment is followed through by the delivery of low energy buildings and an in-house research and development group RED (RMJM Environmental Design). This multidisciplinary team spearheads energy efficiency and a sustainable approach in the earliest stages of projects. RED operates globally and works with all of the firm’s project teams, auditing the implementation of environmental design strategies on projects at each major design stage.

Outcome

After sitting vacant for 30 years, Temple University undertook a $30 million renovation and restructuring of the old church. It is now a state-of-the-art performance center that still retains its original character. Initially the school considered tearing down the church due to its deteriorated state, but those plans were altered after the Historical Commission certified the building. After being known as a “dead space” in North Philadelphia, it is now ready to be the school’s new gateway.[3]

Lew Klein Hall, a 1,200-seat theater and the primary performance space, features a large, protruding stage, superior acoustics, vaulted ceilings and much of the building’s restored original features. The historic Chapel of the Four Chaplains is a now an event space that can hold up to 130 seats. Being located along North Broad Street, the new use for the building fits well within the school’s master plan to orient the growing campus along this corridor.[4]

[1]Philadelphia Inquirer
[2]The Baptist Temple
[3]Philadelphia Inquirer
[4]Temple University

Images courtesy of Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Inquirer, and Temple University.