Pasadena Congregational Church Will Break Ground on $15-Million Expansion

Morning services at Lake Avenue Congregational Church, founded in Pasadena in 1896, will be held today in the parking lot, where a ground breaking will be held for a $15-million expansion project.

Designed by Barasch Architects & Associates Inc. of Pasadena with Ken Sanders & Associates, church planning consultants in Phoenix, the project will quadruple the present sanctuary’s seating capacity. Due to be completed in time for 1987 Christmas worship services, the new sanctuary will include 3,000 seats, expandable to 4,500.

The project also will include 71,000 square feet of education space in a hall that can be turned into a full gym; landscaped plaza and walkway with carillon tower; prayer garden, and a single-level parking structure. Older buildings on the campus, at Maple Street and Lake Avenue, will also be renovated.

The centerpiece will be a fan-shaped sanctuary, designed by Veneklasen & Associates to create an acoustically optimum form. The architect’s biggest challenge was to create “a religious setting within a concert hall form,” Stephen B. Barasch said.


“In a concert hall, once the house lights dim and the performance begins, the shape of the room ceases to exist,” Barasch said. “However, the Lake Avenue Church, with its emphasis on congregational participation, requires the lights to remain on. Therefore, the architecture must enhance the religious experience.”

To achieve this goal, the architect divided the ceiling into thirds, recalling a traditional church form with nave and side aisles. The sanctuary ceiling will appear to float free of side and front walls.

The sanctuary will seem to radiate from and focus on the chancel with its central pulpit. The chancel will contain a 250-person Sanctuary Choir, a 112-rank pipe organ, provisions for multimedia presentations, a baptistry, suspended cross, and orchestra pit. Natural lighting will be provided by a skylight, 16-foot rose window and stained-glass panels.

The whole project has been several years in planning. It was based on a master plan first approved by the 4,100-member congregation in May, 1984.


J. Samuel Shafer Jr. of Arcadia is the church’s project manager. Besides the architects, professional team members are Crowell Design & Construction Co., Pasadena, general contractor; Robert Englekirk & Associates Inc., Los Angeles, structural engineers; Erikkson, Peters, Thoms & Associates, Pasadena, landscape architects; Amelect Inc., Los Angeles, electrical engineers; Diversified Engineering Inc., Phoenix, mechanical engineers; Grenald Associates, Los Angeles, architectural lighting consultants; Denluck/Switzer Associates, Pasadena, civil engineers, and Paul S. Veneklasen & Associates, Santa Monica, acoustical engineers.