Change is one of life's certainties, but it's not always easy to accept. This can be especially true of architecture, when contemporary additions to historic buildings may be required.
For the design team at Gensler, commissioned to design a major addition to the neo-Gothic Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago, it was clear that a sensitive architectural approach was required. This included extensive consultation with everyone affected architect Brian Vitale says not one line was drawn until this process was complete.
"Right at the start we discussed with church members the way buildings can tell stories. And we posed the question, what did they want the new building to say about them? They came back to us saying they wanted a contemporary building that would look forward to the next 100 years, rather than back to the past. There was a recognition that the existing neo-Gothic architecture sends a very formal message to people. The new building needed to be more relaxed it needed to be warm and inviting to young people."
But there was little doubt that a modern design would be a dramatic contrast to the original church, which is the oldest building north of the Chicago River except for the Old Chicago Water Tower.
The architect says the new building, known as The Genevieve and Wayne Gratz Center, needed to complement, rather than mimic the original church buildings.
"We did not want to take away from the beauty of the traditional architecture there was no way the new was going to gobble up the old."
Martin Sherrod, chief operating officer of Fourth Presbyterian Church, says acceptance of the proposed changes was helped by the fact that there was a desperate need for more high-quality space to accommodate the church's extensive outreach and social services programmes, and its cultural requirements. The church provides dinners and vocational training for the city's homeless, and one-to-one after-school tutoring for hundreds of children from under-served neighbourhoods.
"This is a city that really values its iconic architecture," Sherrod says. "But while the neo-Gothic architecture is charming and dazzling in its architectural distinction, it was not well suited to the needs of our programmes.
"Acceptance of the changes was helped by the community being able to see other contemporary additions to historic buildings in the neighbourhood. We also recognised the financial implications. A contemporary building was the most cost-efficient way to accommodate the existing footprint and the constraints of the site. And the consultative process was particularly helpful in giving our people a sense of ownership of the design."