St. Matthew's Episcopal Church | Los Angeles Conservancy
Photo courtesy Architectural Resources Group

St. Matthew's Episcopal Church

The Parish of Saint Matthew in Pacific Palisades was founded in 1941 and moved to its current location in 1953 (bringing its church building with it). A 1978 fire destroyed the building along with eighty-six homes, leaving the congregation without a sanctuary.

The group decided to view the disaster as an opportunity to bring the church community together to plan a new building, and hired architectural firm Moore Ruble Yudell to guide them in the design process. With the requirement that the design had to be approved by two-thirds of the congregation, the architects went to work on a collaboration that would combine two different desires: one for a lofty, symmetrical, acoustically superb church with little glass or wood; and one for a more rustic, informal space with intimate seating, lots of wood, and a connection to the landscape outside.

The resulting building, completed in 1983, integrates these different viewpoints with great success, using a Late Modern style that is lovely and functional without being aggressive.

The church’s entrance is framed by low, informal porches that usher you into a glass narthex, transitioning to a tall, formal nave marked by steel arches that are both structural support and ornamentation. A hipped roof intersects the nave and transept in a way that accommodates existing mature trees and forms courtyards, while operable skylights at the ridge of the roof allow for climate control without air conditioning.

Elegant stained glass windows by artist Jane Marquis bring the outside in, in a dance of dappled color. The church’s interior is curved, creating an intimate setting, and windows are situated to frame views of a prayer garden outside. St. Matthews Episcopal Church is a great example of the potential of a collaborative design process bringing architect and client together.

Photo by Marisela Ramirez/L.A. Conservancy

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