With his Tampa Covenant Church, South Florida architect Alberto Alfonso has created a transcendent, living organism that earnestly seeks to raise the spirits of its members.
“They walk in and give it meaning themselves,” the recipient of the AIA Florida Award of Design Excellence said. “I tried to do something simple and create a sacred space that elevates us and lifts us up.”
The project is a combination of new construction and renovation, with a 25,000 sq. ft. building for sanctuary, offices and classrooms for a congregation of 450. The architect also renovated two existing single level buildings, and reassigned parking, lighting and landscaping.
Alberto reached back to the 14th-century Cathedral of Orvieto in Umbria for the church’s inspiration, though he eschewed its alternating travertine and basalt exterior in favor of a bright, white eggshell plaster. “I had to be reductive in nature,” he said. “I wanted to create a space that was a timeless piece of architecture, by stripping it down to its essence.”
Still, he retained one of a church’s age-old means of communicating with both congregation and community. Tampa Covenant features a bell tower — with a real bell, and rope. “I attend church there,” he said. “They all wait in line at the end of the service, and each one gets to ring the bell.”
Inside, metaphors abound. The entry is a celebration where something special occurs as church members cross the threshold into the sanctuary, which serves as a triune to the Old Testament, New Testament and Holy Spirit. A reflective carbon steel candle box features seven compartments, one each for the six days of creation and the seventh of rest. Light baffles softly penetrate a solid frame behind the pastor in his pulpit, evoking a Rothko painting. Fourteen chandeliers above represent biblical Stations of the Cross.
His use of the golden section, or divine proportion, is evident with the careful positioning of elements — chapel, walls, cross, and “red scoop” – that harmonize with an ever-widening spiral design.
The result is a hushed reverence that falls over the congregation. “People go in and they speak softly,” Alberto said. “Then they come out, and wonder why they’re still talking so quietly.”
For more on Alberto Alfonso, go to www.alfonsoarchitects.com