St. John Vianney Catholic Church | Round Rock, Texas

Conceived as a stone and glass structure rooted in the vernacular, the sanctuary expresses the utilitarian farming and ranching structures in the area

In 1999 RHA was commissioned by the diocese of Austin, Texas, to design a master plan and sanctuary for the new St. John Vianney Parish on a site north of Austin in Round Rock, Texas. The client’s strong desire for the “traditional” and the guidelines of the Second Vatican Council were part of the brief developed by the pastoral council. The sanctuary design was conceived of as a stone and glass structure rooted in the vernacular, expressed in the utilitarian farming and ranching structures in the area.

The site plan organizes the sanctuary, administration and fellowship buildings around a true north-south axis and a common courtyard area linked via a walkway to the veneration garden at the edge of the property. The courtyard functions as an anteroom to the facilities and expresses the communal vision of this sacred precinct.

The floorplan is a hybrid of a Latin cross and a central organizational scheme. The altar occupies the center of both the nave and transept axis at the western end of the church. The entrance from the court is at the eastern end. The reservation chapel and tabernacle are located in the cross tower.

The stained glass windows, which the parish purchased before selecting an architect, are located at the ends of the transepts. The use of the windows was a prerequisite in the design brief. RHA treated them as historical objects by featuring them at the ends of the transepts, thus highlighting their German glasswork and craftsmanship.

The use of locally quarried limestone offset by smoother, reflective materials, juxtapositions of scale and the use of natural light play an important role in the integration of the symbolic with the literal. The earthiness of the rough-hewn stone contrasts with the ephemeral qualities of glass. The hardness of the concrete floor contrasts with the softness of wood pews. The boisterous musical sounds contrast with the delicacy of the wood and copper organ screen. The large, communal aspects of the sanctuary contrast with the intimate quietness of the Reconciliation Chapel. It is through these opposites that the integrity of the materials was utilized to establish a coherent design in tune with the church's tenets.

2003 Architecture Merit Award, American Institute of Architects—Houston

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