Ursuline Academy a Preservation Model

October 09, 2016 by: Ben Heimsath

In 1960’s a hundred year old complex near downtown San Antonio was in severe disrepair. The Urusline Order of nuns who operated a girl’s school on the property was moving away to a new campus. What would be next for the old buildings was unknown. Enter the Conservation Society who purchased most of the property in 1971 and facilitated the beginning of a multi-phased restoration program. A ... Read More

Sacred Architecture / Adaptive Re-use / Liturgical Arts / Historic Preservation / Church Adaptive Reuse

Servant Church Grows From Asbury UMC

October 04, 2016 by: Ben Heimsath

I’ve passed by and noticed this church campus for many years. Stone walls under a canopy of oak trees have offer an appealing image of a quiet neighborhood church, Asbury United Methodist. Not long ago, however, there was a new sign out front. The Servant Church sign on the stone wall offers a hint of something new.   The church’s website invites visitors to join a young and diverse group ... Read More

Sacred Architecture / Historic Preservation / Worship Spaces

Japanese World Peace Bell Movement

September 28, 2016 by: Ben Heimsath

Something wonderful and completely unexpected came in the mail this week from Lola Heiler-Stillman, whose extensive research on the mysterious Japanese Temple Bell I shared in a recent post. Ms. Heiler-Stillman wrote to thank me for featuring the story of this ancient relic and how it survived WWII and found a new home in Boston. She was particularly pleased that I emphasized the bell’s symbolic ... Read More

Sacred Architecture / Memorial / Liturgical Arts

A Place for Worship at Chicago’s O’Hare

September 20, 2016 by: Ben Heimsath

Listed as the fifth busiest airport in the world, over 75 million people pass through Chicago’s O’Hare’s doors annually. This massive facility accommodates all levels of needs for people from all over the globe. And that means it also has a multi-faith chapel.   Though many airports have no place for worship or spiritual reflection, both Chicago Airports have active chaplaincies. Midway Airport ... Read More

Holy Place / Worship Space / Sacred Architecture

Ritual Purification for the Hajj

September 16, 2016 by: Ben Heimsath

The Hajj officially ended this past Wednesday, September 14. The final act of what may easily have been 1 million pilgrims was to circumambulate the sacred Ka’aba. The black cube structure marks the location of Abraham’s first temple. The Ka’aba is in the center of the Grand Mosque of Mecca, or as the devout would spell the name of the holy city, Makkah.     A few years ago, when we began master ... Read More

Holy Place / Sacred Architecture / Religious

An East Side Institution - Simpson UMC

September 12, 2016 by: Ben Heimsath

The front façade facing 12th Street is imposing. A broad set of steps greets the visitor at Simpson United Methodist Church in East Austin. The classical design features large columns supporting a traditional pediment. A stepped steeple rises above the front façade. The masonry exterior is unadorned with simple white trim boards surrounding the windows and main entry doors. This church is a ... Read More

Sacred Architecture / Historic Preservation / Worship Spaces

Church in Italy Felled by Earthquake

August 24, 2016 by: Ben Heimsath

Before yesterday’s earthquake, the town of Amatrice, in the Lazio region in Italy surrounding Rome, was recognized for its beauty and history. The ancient city featured a number of medieval churches with priceless artworks. The full extent of the destruction isn’t known at this time. Efforts are rightly focused on rescuing survivors and tending to thousands of injured and homeless.   At this ... Read More

Worship Space / Sacred Architecture / Historic Preservation

Last Days for St. Thomas in the Bronx

August 22, 2016 by: Ben Heimsath

Mid block in the New Hope neighborhood of the Bronx in New York City, a congregation of Lutherans made use of their Phase One building for 88 years. But in 2012, the congregation closed so it was up to the Metropolitan Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church to sell the property. The sale was completed in 2014, but within a year the property was flipped and a developer of affordable residences ... Read More

Sacred Architecture / Historic Preservation

Mushrooms, Death, and Decompiculture

August 19, 2016 by: Ben Heimsath

Artist Jae Rhim Lee isn’t promoting her revolutionary new approach to death and burial as a religious or spiritual endeavor. However, she does pose her challenge as a moral imperative. Noting the prevalence of toxic materials that build up in the human body over a lifetime, she began to actively look for alternate ways to minimize the impact her burial would some day have on the environment.   So ... Read More

Sacred Architecture / Memorial

Austin’s St. Elias Connected to Ancient Traditions

August 12, 2016 by: Ben Heimsath

A few blocks from the State Capitol sits a pretty stone church tucked back a bit from the street and offering an inviting stone staircase to anyone walking by. The church is St. Elias Antiochian Orthodox Church, the only Eastern Orthodox congregation in the downtown area. From the outside, some distinctive details differentiate this structure from other historic churches downtown. Few visitors ... Read More

Holy Place / Sacred Architecture