Design of sacred places in the landscape, the gardens and spaces in which worship takes place, sacraments are administered, and with foresight and planning, small and unplanned rituals are carried out in moments of joy or sadness is an important consideration when congregations contemplate expanding or building new houses of worship. In particular, the intersection of what may be thought of as sacred and secular spaces become opportunities to incite introspection by those passersby on foot or in vehicles. A momentary flash of thoughts . . . “I wonder what that place is, it looks peaceful, inviting, maybe I’ll stop in and explore sometime” . . . and the all-important intersection of sacred and secular is imprinted on our minds as a special place in the community.
F:F is pleased to have been invited to continue our involvement in the Master Plan for Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church in Westlake Hills, Texas. We are now working on design development for Phase I areas of the Master Plan, including the Bee Cave Road landscape threshold to the campus, and the main church yard plaza and outdoor worship space.
The congregation’s desire to express welcomeness and peace, and a place in the city as one of gathering and community was the inspiration for the threshold gardens design that include pedestrian entries from the new sidewalks that are part of ongoing Bee Caves roadway improvements, sculptural elements formed of earth and raw steel screens, and pathways and native plantings that are accessible to the public as a gift to the community. By placing a strong emphasis on the design of this intersection of church campus and public realm, Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church hopes to serve as an inspirational beacon, and momentary place of peace and joy along the public way of daily routine and travel.
For those who enter the campus, a new central church yard forms the entry to the church and Butterfly Christian Pre-School. The natural sloping ground plane will be crafted into stepped lawn terraces to accommodate multiple functions from large to small gatherings for worship, weddings, picnics and outdoor film screenings, youth group gatherings, and a host of activities that require flexible area and space. At the lower level of the terraces, a central plaza will provide accessible spaces for the rituals of worship. Baptisms, weddings, funerals, and special holy day services can take place in the plaza, supported by a sculpted “table boulder” and artful raw steel and glass screen that serves as the center piece of such services. Rain gardens are designed to collect and redirect and store surface runoff from the courtyard, and natural seating boulders create places for intimate conversation, individual prayer and meditation, and rest within the gardens of the church yard.
Construction of the Phase I landscape areas is expected to occur beginning Fall of 2017.