Andrew Scalisi

Document Type

Thesis, Senior

Publication Date

Spring 2014




City, Religion, Manhattan, Congregation, Scalisi






The phenomenon of church renting has grown out of necessity for small urban congregations. Churches are holding worship services in public and private places with greater regularity than some might think. It is not uncommon today to see portable church signs outside of unconventional places on Sundays. In Manhattan in particular, there is a greater need for rentable space as many congregations are struggling to find a permanent home due to density, finances, availability and politics. Typically, congregations rent until they can attain a permanent facility or develop a congregation large enough to support one. However, exercising this option comes at the expense of challenges such as community backlash, political resistance, adaptability difficulties and identity disempowerment.

What would then be a realistic method of attaining a permanent home within Manhattan’s diverse range of building challenges? There is a programmatic and architectural tension when renting from non-conventional spaces for worship. When trying to adapt to an establishment’s programmatic provisions, it automatically produces disadvantages for the church spatially and functionally. This produces a conformance to the programmatic and spatial limitations of the rented space, rather than allowing the church to define a space based on its own congregational needs and architectural desires.

This thesis attempts to operate between the confinements of church renting and the near impossibilities of ground up building for the transient urban congregation. In identifying a method of doing so, the project will look to generate a place of worship that becomes iconic in its own right. The sacred has become more so associated with the private realm of interiority and intimacy within its own self-contained community, often divorced from the inclusion of the city. In the case of church renting, an architectural identity is sacrificed for the pragmatics of available, yet not entirely functional, space. In the case of ground up building, architecture is primarily boundless in terms of identity, yet remains an unrealistic option for the less financially equipped congregation. So the question remains, is there a middle zone that operates between these two realms? Can a place of worship at the same time utilize existing space, create a functional house of worship catered to the congregations needs and contribute to the architectural iconicity of Manhattan?

Additional Information

Thesis Advisers: Ryan Ludwig, Kyle Miller

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