Date of Award
Master in Interior Architecture [Adaptive Reuse]
of communities who suffer through high levels of gun violence experience post-traumatic stress disorder at rates equal to military veterans. At the same time, religious participation in the US has plummeted, and churches, once the center of many of these communities, have lost their value as support systems. These structures must become a new type of sanctuary for those dealing with pervasive, gun-related trauma. The reimagined typology will prioritize progressive, sustained benefit over revelatory moments of transcendence, by opening sightlines through a space of safety and support to the outside.
The decaying Bethel Holy Temple Church in North Philadelphia is surrounded by five vacant lots, in a neighborhood plagued by gun violence. The church’s traditional religious role – as a healing space for both the community and the individual – will inform its secular reuse as a public library of everything. As people move through the site, they will gradually transition between places for collective experiences and personal ones. By animating the now-vacant landscape with recreational space, the community will find the library itself. There, its users will borrow far more than books. An expecting mother can check out a car seat; an aspiring maker can learn to use a 3D Printer; a traumatized teen can find new meaning by tending a garden.
Elements that are proven to help people heal will inform the architectural logic of interventions. Spaces for social cohesion will be centralized, serving to anchor both the building and community. Peripheral quiet spaces will foster reflection. Cloistered rooms for therapeutic services will address the effects of trauma directly. Small additions will extrude beyond the existing envelope, providing opportunities for discovery and placing members in worlds outside the bounds of their neighborhood.
Together, these design elements will mutually reinforce one another in the healing process, and become a model for the positive reuse of church buildings nationally. For North Philadelphia and other communities besieged by gun violence, the public library of everything will be emblematic of new possibilities, and a crucial step in mending a frayed social and urban fabric.
McCarthy, Eva, "Personal trauma, community healing : reimagining sanctuary for survivors of gun violence" (2019). Masters Theses. 382.
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