Featured Project: Chinese Community Church

The original 1852 design of the Chinese Community Church, attributed to Thomas U. Walter, Architect of the Capitol, featured a tall wooden bell tower.  Over the years, the original tower was replaced with a dome, window trim was removed, and the brick was covered with “form-stone.” In 2008, the Chinese Community Church asked Rippeteau Architects to restore the church to its original design.  Working closely with the DC Historic Preservation Office, Rippeteau Architects assembled a team to analyze the existing remnants, historical photographs, and compatible materials.  Our team restored the masonry walls and stained glass windows and replicated the original tower.

Slide the arrows left & right to see the before and after images.

The project won the DC Preservation Award in 2009 and the Mid-Atlantic Construction Best of 2009 Award.  It was featured as the centerfold story, entitled “Towering Transformation,” in the July/ August 2009 issue of Preservation magazine. Read the article here.

Slide the arrows left & right to see the before and after images.

Following the exterior renovation, a comprehensive interior renovation included a complete restoration and stabilization of the historic heavy timber and brick construction, new thermal insulation and waterproofing systems, new HVAC systems, new state-of-the-art audiovisual and lighting systems, new finishes, and the restoration of original historic details.

The Chancel area was expanded to incorporate a raised platform for a contemporary worship band with a traditional choir behind.  A concealed, built-in pulpit can be rolled out on tracks when needed and pushed tightly against the low wall when an open dais is preferred.  Acoustics were very carefully considered.  The chancel walls and ceiling are free-floating sound panels at the optimal angles for sound projection, the glass balcony rail is angled back to control reverberation, and the rounded pilasters concealing ductwork and conduit improve sound distribution.  The quartzite and marbles used in the chancel and altar were all sourced in China.  The chancel flooring, wall, and ceiling were made of caramelized bamboo.

Snaps from our Client:

"In the Fall of 2002 the Chinese Community Church hired Rippeteau Architects to do a feasibility study to determine the possibilities and limitations of building on its current property at 10th and L Streets NW to house its ministry programs. Currently, the church programs are housed in Shared Ministry at Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church and we wanted to know if it was possible and affordable to move back to L Street. Several architectural firms were interviewed by another church member, who happens to be an architect, and myself. Mr. Darrel Rippeteau's proposal was chosen based on the outcome to be delivered, the team of engineers available for consultation, cost for the study, and the reputation of the firm.

Mr. Rippeteau proposed an option of building two additional floors and renovating our current space to meet our needs after having done a thorough study of the building code for the area, the historic preservation code, the original drawings, photos of original construction in progress, and surveying the buildings with his team of engineers and another architect. One of the most valuable parts of the study was his detailed presentation to our committee of what was possible based on the different codes applicable to our space and defining with us our current space needs as well as helping us to crystallize our future space needs. After that group effort he was able to suggest an appropriate building option and attach an estimated, very general cost analysis for that option as well as some variations on the option. Mr. Rippeteau was more than willing to answer or investigate any question by committee members even if only remotely related to the building in question. We have found Mr. Rippeteau to be thorough in his approach to his work, creative and flexible in solving problems or meeting needs, willing to go the extra mile (or ten) to answer specific questions or give advice, and available for consultation on any related matters. He has been invaluable in helping us to plan for our future by giving us direction and hard data from which to work."

-Linda Wong

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