The United House of Prayer for All People is a 100-year-old well-established ministry with numerous churches across the country. Their congregation in Essex, MD had outgrown its leased space, so UHOP approached MW Studios for assistance in designing and constructing a new 10,000 SF church. The unique property fronts a busy retail avenue and extends into a residential neighborhood while sloping down almost twelve feet at the rear of the property. Various zoning and land use approvals were required for this project, including approval of the exterior design by the county architectural review panel. The site presents a challenge in topography as well as space constraints and accessibility potential. Ultimately, the design team opted to construct the building with the main sanctuary sunken at the streetside, and locate the main building entry off of the rear parking lot located at the lowest elevation. A balcony and grand stair allow access from the street level at the rear of the sanctuary, and a small social hall lies at the lower level with the rest of the building program. It was important to hold some of the building’s bulk on the street facade to create a presence to the public. As a result, the sanctuary soars in height and allows copious amounts of natural light into the sanctuary. Colored glazing is incorporated into the glass sanctuary facade to accentuate the stained glass windows of old, and an abstract spire punctuates the sanctuary ceiling. Natural finishes and red oak paneling define the sanctuary, and the white walls and ceiling allow the light to flood the space. The remainder of the interior aesthetic is clean, light, and provides enough contrast and variance in texture to stand on its own. Also incorporated into the building are church offices, mechanical spaces, storage, toilet rooms, and a full commercial kitchen, making this project a true asset to the community.
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