Redeemer Presbyterian Church

San Antonio, Texas 

From its inception, Redeemer Presbyterian Church envisioned permanently locating their campus in the culturally rich and dynamic urban core of San Antonio. With the help of Jackson Galloway Associates, the church evaluated several downtown properties before finally selecting a defunct YMCA to transform into their new permanent home. From this downtown campus, Redeemer now anchors a wide array of ministries that serve a growing, diverse membership, and seek to extend the Gospel across the entire city, even at a time when other churches are moving out of it or declining amidst its urban challenges. In particular, Redeemer is uniquely situated to reach out to young professionals moving into new downtown condos and lofts, as well as the working poor who live in low-income pockets in and near downtown. 

Looking at the 1960's brutalist-era YMCA in 2012 it was difficult to envision how exactly the boarded-up, austere concrete fitness facility could be transformed into the home of a vibrant congregation. The building committee wanted to somehow create an authentic architectural connection to ecclesial tradition, while budget necessitated that the majority of the existing structure would have to remain intact. Jackson Galloway set to work designing renovations to 55,000 square feet of the interior spaces, and a modest treatment of the exterior. A central strategy employed to bridge the gap between ecclesial tradition on the one hand and the reality of a rectilinear concrete building on the other was to take forms from each and reinterpret them in unexpected materials. Rounded and gothic arches abandoned their masonry lineage, interlacing themselves in steel angles, wood slat screens, wall extrusions, and liturgical furnishings. A boxy glass volume at the new entry acknowledges the corresponding boxy concrete structure behind it, while extending a fresh face to the community. 

The former gymnasium emerged as the best candidate for a worship space, and the design challenge would be to reimagine the bare-bones room as a beautifully adorned worship space – filled with natural light, composed with natural finishes, and featuring optimal natural-sounding acoustics. For the room to serve properly as a house of worship and also reflect the vibrant culture of the congregation, it became clear that design solutions would need to fuse traditional forms with contemporary technologies and savvy craftsmanship. The gym's original wood floor was refinished and remains in use under 450 new wood-backed seats. Articulated trim carpentry brings order to the room, and gently curved slat screens that run the length of the room from ceiling to chancel platform draw the viewer's eyes to the cross and altar, the place of eucharistic celebration. A series of angled light shelves in the ceiling naturally diffuse sound coming from the front of the room while concealing mechanical systems and theatrical lighting tracks above. Jackson Galloway was also commissioned to design custom liturgical furnishings (wall cross, altar table, pulpit, and baptismal font) that harmonized with the simple, mission-inspired architecture. Elsewhere in the building, the two-story natatorium was converted to a fellowship hall by infilling the lap pool. The YMCA's basement locker, storage and training rooms were reconfigured house children's and student ministries. Other rooms were repurposed for staff offices, informal fellowship areas, nursery and preschool rooms, and an open foyer. 

Redeemer worships in an orderly fashion characterized by truth and vibrancy. In accord with a movement among churches that serve millennial populations, the style of worship is a natural, human, organic expression. Characterized by a demand for authenticity and often unafraid of incorporating tradition, millennials are increasingly finding welcome respite in places of beauty. A sense of sanctuary and stillness with God provides opportunities for deepening experiences that high production and sensory bombardment can't always offer. Also emerging in the millennial church is a reluctance to embrace the concept of limitless sprawling growth and instead focus on serving their immediate community. Prior to moving downtown, Redeemer rented space from a suburban Elementary and High School. The congregation has maintained those relationships through continued volunteer service, while shifting their primary outreach focus to a vision of being present "in the city for the city."

SIZE:  Adaptive Reuse ~ 55,000 SF

CLIENT:  Redeemer Presbyterian Church

COMPONENTS:  Adaptive Reuse of an old YMCA building to create an 800-seat Worship Space, a Fellowship Hall, Classrooms and Admin Offices.


SERVICES:  Master Planning, Programming, Full Architectural Services, Interior Design, Liturgical Furnishings Design, Signage Design.

Photos by Topher Ayrhart.