Rebirth for church destroyed by fire
Congregation breaks ground in W. CummingtonBy Matt Byrne Globe Correspondent / July 17, 2011
The design of the new West Cummington Congregational Church began with studying the responses of the congregation, the history of the Church, and the historic context in which the original building was built. The question at hand was, "What should this building be?"
My sense is that there are a number of fundamental ways to answer that question.
The first would be to replace the building as it was, using the numerous photographs and memories of the congregation. I believe that there is enough information to do this well. New items would be incorporated as invisibly as possible.
The second approach would be to reproduce the exterior of the building, incorporating minor adjustments, and redesigning the interior to reflect current requirements, in a manner that is both modern and sympathetic to the historic image of the building. I liken this to a building that has an historic designation in which the exterior is protected and the interior is subject to change to meet current needs.
The third approach would be to design an entirely new and different building, inside and out, with entirely different material, details and image. This building might reference the old building, but through color and proportion, rather than through actual appearance.
An approach of which I am skeptical, is one that attempts to make a "somewhat traditional" and "somewhat modern" building. To me this would invoke an arbitrary choice of image and material, without the freedom to invent an entirely new building.
Having studied the comments of the congregation, the documents relating to the original building, and the code and program requirements for a new building, and having considered the place of the building in the village, it seems to me that the most appropriate approach is the second one; to design the building with an exterior which is essentially the same as it was, and with an entirely new interior, using the "bridge" of simplicity to span between the historic and the modern condition. The most remarked upon qualities of the old building are light and sound, and these qualities and nuances can be incorporated into the new building by design and careful study.