The pink granite that is featured all over Covenant Presbyterian Church's campus is a very handsome stone. Photographs cannot do justice to the warmth of the color, which glows invitingly when suffused in sunlight. It is by far the most eye-catching feature of this Charlotte, N.C.-based church's eight-acre campus. But it is not the only one . . .The campus, which is shaped like a piece of pie, contains four original buildings that were constructed in the 1940s: A main sanctuary building, a chapel, a fellowship hall and an education building. After 50 years, the congregation had outgrown these four buildings because it had mushroomed and the church was conducting increasing numbers of outreach programs. With future growth in mind, the congregation planned five phases of renovations, additions and new construction. "In 1990 we did a physical analysis of the campus to plan for growth through the year 2010," says Stephen Hepler, who was the architect for the first phase of the growth also. That phase cost $2.8 million and was carried out over the winter that linked 1992 and 1993. This first phase called for the education building to be renovated and a 28,000-square-foot recreational wing to be added to it. (All five phases would have cost $12.9 million in 1990 but would cost about $17 million today.)
The new wing bears some similarity to the original buildings while setting itself apart as a contemporary structure by combining popular materials in a contemporary design. "The challenge was to take this new large building and match it in material without matching any of the exact forms, while maintaining respect for the old forms," says Hepler of Lee Nichols Hepler Architecture, Charlotte. He rose to the challenge successfully be creating an addition that referenced the past and the present with subtlety and strength.Like its predecessor, the new wing features pink Salisbury granite and grey Mount Airy granite, both quarried in North Carolina. The granite appears in the same proportions as in the original buildings: 90% pink and 10% grey. The random ashlar pattern in which the granite was laid in the original buildings was simplified in the addition. The original pattern has 14 pieces to it but this one has 10, so it was less complex for the stone masons to lay. Random ashlar is a pattern of rectangular stones set without continuous joints and laid up without drawn patterns. The units, of varying sizes, have sawed, dressed or squared bed surfaces and are bonded properly and laid in mortar. Because the granite units were cut to modular heights, discontinuous but aligned horizontal joints are visible (see diagram on page 000).Slanted Alabama limestone slabs, inspired by those that are to be found in the front of the church, cap the columns. And limestone also appears as an accent throughout the addition--in 8x8-inch slabs close to the ground, as 8-inch-wide trim around windows, as 10-inch-deep lintels and as caps that run along the top of the wall.A trace of the chapel's Neo-Gothic-style windows also comes through in the interior and exterior windows of the new building. "A replica would have been expensive to create so we gave it a slightly different version of the arched window," says Hepler. The window over the main entrance to the new building draws attention to this doorway. "This window shows the entrance to the campus, which is kind of off to the side, so it's useful," explains the architect. (Each of the three other original buildings has its own unique version of the chapel's Gothic window.)
Unlike its predecessor, the addition features other, less costly, masonry materials: glass block, gray concrete block and pink custom-colored, split-faced concrete block in a shade that complements the original pink and gray granite and limestone.The glass block make an appearance in upper-story windows. The 8x8-inch block are framed by custom aggregate ground-face CMU, have slanted sills of Alabama limestone, and inject a new architectural element to the upper stories of the recreational wing. Standard gray concrete block were used in interior spaces that are not seen by visitors, such as storage rooms. Custom-colored, split-faced architectural block were specified for higher stories. The idea was to use a less expensive material that resembled the granite closely. "We looked at 12 samples before we found the right one," says Chris Bruner of Pyramid Masonry, the Charlotte-based masonry contractor that constructed all the non-stone masonry. Bruner also managed to find a good mortar match for the block at Asheville, N.C.-based Metromont Materials. This mortar is a slightly lighter shade than the split-face block and is barely perceptible.By far the most modern feature in the new wing is the window wall. These punched openings are a startlingly modern connection to the decade in which the addition was built without being jarringly different from the 50-year-old building it extends.