Pasadena Christian Center

Pasadena Christian Center in Pasadena, California by Tolkin & Associates Architecture, 2001

Located on a busy commercial street a few miles from Pasadena's Central Business District, the Pasadena Christian Center inhabits an old 700-seat movie theater. Local architects Tolkin & Associates Architecture carried out the adaptive re-use of the building, transforming it into a space for 300, with educational and children's worship facilities.

The most unique aspect of the movie theater, its lamella roof structure, became an important part of the Center's design. Stripped of its paint down to the bare wood, the wood structure forms the grand, congregational space with two new, smaller wooden structures inserted into the space for the educational and children's worship uses. These objects create a bottleneck between the entry and the main space through their placement, in what may be the project's one weak point. Otherwise the two wooden "blobs" are playful additions to the space.

The architects developed a unique framing system for shells of the new wooden structures, relating to the existing structure without mimicking it. Whereas the existing roof structure uses a regular sizing and spacing of framing elements in a compression arch system, the new structure acts more like an egg with the surface itself acting as the structure and the framing helping to stiffen the shell in an irregular sizing and spacing corresponding to the shell's form.

Although the finish of the two new shells is not as refined as the existing lamella roof and the same shells' framing distracts from sensing the irregular forms, they achieve their purpose of housing additional functions while also activating the larger space around them. Given that the services are spontaneous and joyous in their performance, it is appropriate that the architects strove for a new way to create something different yet economical.