Date of Origin
have not yet uncovered evidence of the explicit reasons behind
Renderings for Shadyside Church, Courtesy of Carnegie Mellon University Architecture Archives
Aurand, Head of the CMU Arts Library and Special Collections kindly
arranged for me to see and photograph the renderings.
Records indicate they were a gift from the Pittsburgh History &
Landmarks Foundation in 1993. Mr.
Aurand, who has additional responsibilities as Architecture Librarian and
Archivist, also wrote two well-received books on
Comparison of rendering & actual sanctuary remodeling of 1937-38
in pencil-and-watercolor, the two depictions were apparently created at
about the same time. One shows
many of the interior features that were eventually executed at Shadyside
in 1937-38. There is a deep
chancel, with its floor elevated slightly above the nave floor, which
appears to be flat (the original sanctuary floor was sloped).
The walls have a light colored dressed stone facing with carved
ornament inside the chancel. The
ceiling of the lantern is coffered (we have no photographs indicating
whether the original ceiling had this feature).
Instead of our magnificent mosaic in a semi-domical apse, the
chancel terminates with a rose window and flanking round arch windows.
The transepts appear to have a plaster finish (even retaining
circumferential bands, as in the original
sanctuary) rather than the Guastavino tiles actually used.
Indistinct depictions of wooden liturgical furnishings indicate, perhaps, that design of details was incomplete.
Inscription on sanctuary rendering, Courtesy of Carnegie Mellon University Architecture Archives
of this would be particularly notable, if it was part of the design
development, by the architect of record, close in time to eventual execution of the sanctuary
remodeling. The date of origin
of the renderings, however, is in question.
The only identification on the sanctuary depiction is a
hand-written (rather than draftsman-lettered) pencil inscription “proposed
plan for / Shadyside Presbyterian Church / Pgh / J T Steen-arch”
James Steen was a respected and prolific
(Below are photos of the Fidelity
Building, one of Steen's important downtown designs.)
Excerpt from 1930 report to Shadyside congregation from the Session
earliest reference at the church to the remodeling is in a 1930 report to
the congregation that recommends proceeding when "... the way be clear...”
with “...plans already designed or similar ones...” to include a “...Church
School...with a Chapel and the alteration of the Church auditorium.”
We know that, at one time, the church had drawings from a
The existence of the rendering
also raises the question of the source of the design concept. It
seems unlikely that Steen and Eyre would have independently offered such
similar schemes. Did one influence the other, or was there a third
source from which both drew?
The existence of the rendering also raises the question of the source of the design concept. It seems unlikely that Steen and Eyre would have independently offered such similar schemes. Did one influence the other, or was there a third source from which both drew?
Large view of rendering showing detail, Courtesy of Carnegie Mellon University Architecture Archives
medium points to this being a preliminary study for the worship space, but
likely one intended to be shared with the client.
The graphite lines of a pencil define the outlines of the sanctuary
and its furnishings. While the
scale and perspective of the view are quite accurate, it does not appear
to have been laid out with mechanical instruments.
Rather, it seems to be a careful freehand sketch by a talented
draftsman. The concept was
well enough developed, however, to support the indication of color, shadow
and texture with the skilled application of tinted wash.
While such a technique might have been used for an internal office study,
the high degree of detailing points to an early presentation rendering for
the client’s consideration.
Whatman Drawing Board - reverse of sanctuary rendering, Courtesy of Carnegie Mellon University Architecture Archives
other artifact of the medium helps narrow the time frame of origin.
On the back of the rendering is the identification as
“Whatman’s Drawing Board” a heavy paperboard stock that has a
pressed white finish on one side, suitable for accepting ink or wash.
W.R. Balston furnished Whatman Board through its
Ralph Adams Cram, East Liberty Presbyterian Church, 1935
would an early date for the concept shown in the proposal be significant?
It is true that the “liturgical impulse” (1), which prescribed features
such as the divided chancel (as opposed to a platform/central pulpit
auditorium), was already influential in Protestant churches by the early
decades of the twentieth century. We
can credit much of that influence to Ralph Adams Cram, both from his
design work and his extensive writing and lecturing.
His liturgical concepts were most emphatically realized in a
Reformed-tradition church at nearby East Liberty Presbyterian.
key would be if the Shadyside rendering represents the work of James T.
Steen (before 1924) or if it evidences “plans already designed” (by
1930) by one of the sons. Either
would indicate that the plans or execution of Cram’s 1935 East Liberty
Presbyterian were not a factor in the conceptual design of Shadyside’s
architecture ideals, in that case, would seem to have had currency at
Shadyside long before their realization in either congregation.
On the face of it, though, the creation boundary dates turn out to
be 1914 and 1937.
Richardsonian Romanesque Fidelity Building (Pittsburgh) by James T. Steen, 1889
The companion rendering points to another intriguing and puzzling possibility. It shows a worship space with a long, narrow nave as opposed to a central lantern-style sanctuary. It is labeled “Chapel” and a sketch on the reverse ties it to the location of Shadyside’s 1892 chapel. This rendering is explored at A NEW Chapel for Shadyside Church
1. This term for the movement was used by David R. Bains in his doctoral dissertation "The Liturgical Impulse in Mid-Twentieth-Century Mainline American Protestantism"