First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego - New Welcome Center & Whole Campus Renovation
- Project Address: 4190 Front Street, San Diego, CA 92103
- Project Owner/ Developer: First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego / Southern Cross Property Consultants
- Owner Contact Name/ Email: Robie Evans - email@example.com
- Project Architect/ Designer: Platt/Whitelaw Architects; KTU+A Planning + Landscape Architecture
Perched on a canyonside on the border between Hillcrest and Mission Hills, the new Welcome Center and whole campus renovation were designed for the First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego with the purpose and principles of universal accessibility, social interaction, and environmental stewardship.
A green screen and entry gate greet the visitor and initiate a path that winds gently down and through the campus, linking the functional and cultural elements of the site. Monuments that grace the path at intervals along the way include pieces by James Hubbell, Gerry Thiebolt, and the late Rhoda Lopez. Some were left in their original locations; others were relocated with the assistance of the living artists. A dry creek bed, lined with cobble retrieved from the construction site, follows the path and collects and filters rainwater on the site. The banks of the creek bed are adorned with a palette of colorful native plants. Where a ramp and stair once segregated congregants by physical ability, now a graceful walk joins all visitors together on a journey through the site.
The path leads to the central gathering plaza which provides a setting for both the iconic 1958 Meeting Hall and the new 8,700 s.f. Welcome Center, which responds to the older structure’s form. The plaza is composed of low-solar heat gain pavers that filter stormwater and feed it to the retention area under the 70’ diameter fire turnaround. The permeable turnaround filters & retains the entire site’s stormwater for slow release into the sensitive canyon habitat below.
The new Welcome Center opens to the plaza with a glazed storefront that visually connects interior and exterior. The main interior gathering space – Bard Hall – features generous daylighting and natural ventilation. Polished concrete floors on the ground floor provide an elegant finish without the application of additional finish materials. A green screen curves around the southwestern façade of the hall, veiling it from excessive insolation.
The group meeting spaces at a Unitarian Universalist Church are as important as its sacred spaces, and the new Welcome Center provides a variety of new accessible meeting rooms of different sizes with daylighting, natural ventilation, and environmentally friendly materials.
Taken together, the new Welcome Center and campus renovations provide a spiritual and social setting designed to support the Unitarian Universalist community and its principles, all within a modest construction budget.