Trinity Church Rejuvenation

Designing a Rejuvenation
by: 
Jeffrey Murphy, architect and founding partner, MBB

The rejuvenation of Trinity Church Wall Street offers a case study consistent with one of Trinity’s six Core Values: attention to stewardship. The project’s design team, led by MBB Architects and including a wide range of designers, engineers, and specialists, has been working with Trinity for years to examine and address all the facets of rejuvenating this 172-year-old landmark.

Trinity Church Rejuvenation Scaffolding

Scaffolding set up inside Trinity Church for the Rejuvenation. Photo: Colin Winterbottom

The work of restoring, conserving, and renovating focuses on several primary project objectives: First, to enhance the worship experience. Second, the team, in collaboration with the firm Building Conservation Associates, is undertaking a preservation project while ensuring the highest quality and technical skill. A third goal is to integrate three new organs to support this historic building’s role as a space for both worship and for music and performance. And finally, the project will integrate a range of new technologies including a state-of-the-art audio and video broadcasting system, energy efficient LED lighting, and security upgrades.

To address the structural and mechanical challenges of this project, the design team has carefully disassembled the building elements to reassemble historic floors, ceilings, and original elements throughout the building, including the pews. With this reconstruction and the addition of new technologies, the rejuvenation will upgrade and sustain the Trinity community for many decades to come.

Trinity Church Stained Glass Windows Rejuvenation

By restoring stained-glass panels, the interior will be brighter, highlighting architectural features that were previously obscured. Photo: Colin Winterbottom

Conservation specialists note that work of this nature should be undertaken about every three decades for a church of Trinity’s era and importance. The last full preservation of the church took place in the mid-1940s. So as a team of architects, preservation experts, and construction professionals charged with executing this project, we were prepared for the careful, lengthy, and often surprising process of working on one of America’s greatest historic landmarks. The excitement of working on Trinity Church has also garnered attention from journalists, preservation advocates, architecture buffs, tourists, and of course New York City residents.

Among the new additions to Trinity Church will be several welcome, visible enhancements. The design adds wheelchair-accessible ramps, as well as a new glass canopy on the church’s south side, which will shelter religious processions from inclement weather. The cemetery paths will be expanded and renovated to provide access to all the grave markers. There will also be a new bluestone-paved plaza and expanded loggia, a plan developed by Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects, who have collaborated with public garden designer Lynden B. Miller on the plantings.

By eliminating some fencing around the grounds and adding new, improved lighting, the completed project will better highlight its signature features: the church’s brownstone buttresses and ornamentation. With these enhancements, Trinity Church will become an even more luminous showcase of faith and history.

Inside, the rejuvenation work will make the worship experience more comfortable, functional, and beautiful. By restoring stained-glass panels and adding LED lighting, the interior will be brighter, highlighting architectural features that were previously obscured. By stabilizing the floors and walls, Trinity is making an invaluable investment that will last decades. Older masonry will be rehabilitated and the entire exterior will be repainted to reflect the original color scheme of the 1840s.

Rejuvenating Trinity Church is part of Trinity’s mission to provide a spiritual home for Lower Manhattan. Our eyes should be drawn upward and filled with light, and this work on a remarkable church will ensure it continues to be an inspiration and refuge for years to come.

Jeffrey Murphy, FAIA, LEED AP, is an architect and founding partner with MBB (Murphy Burnham & Buttrick Architects). Other MBB team members include Associate Zach Poole, AIA, the preservation specialist Katherine Malishewsky, and architectural designer Taylor Burch.