Applying Arches in Architecture
St. George Church Raises its Dome
Most architectural projects deal with tight sequencing, but few must work around the schedules of renowned Greek iconographers. With only a few precious weeks available to work in the U.S., a team of artists managed to create exquisite hand painted masterpieces on the ceilings of a new Greek Orthodox church in Indiana. At the same time schedules for the construction team were suddenly up-ended.
St. George Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church Fishers, Ind.
Architects: CJK Design Group
Structural Engineers: Fink Roberts & Petrie Inc.
General Contractor: St. George Antiochian Church
Project Manager: David Mouck, the Gill Company
Dome Consultant: Phil Liptak
Framing Structural Engineers: THH Inc.
Dome Solution Provider: Radius Track
St. George Orthodox Christian Church is a symphony of curves, arches, domes, barrel vaults and free flowing spaces. One is hard pressed to find a right angle anywhere. To ensure each curve was executed perfectly, Radius Track was charged with providing all the curved-right cold-formed steel tracks and studs for the Byzantine dome and all of the curved ceiling details. The challenge: schedules had to be quickly revised around the arrival of Dr. George Kourdis, one of the world’s leading iconographers and his team.
Completing the interiors quickly became a top priority and Radius Track had to supply material at record speed. The drywall contractors followed, and the iconographers weren’t far behind.
“It was like we were chasing each other,” jokes David Mouck, project manager and Partner with the Gill Co. However, the project was completed with an unusual sense of peace and quiet; the iconographers pray continuously as they work, working on scaffolding that went up to 60 feet above ground in places.
Because Radius Track was able to provide perfectly formed curves, this provided the iconographers with extraordinarily smooth surfaces. Each painting was done with the ancient tradition of mixing eggs and white wine, using minerals and herbs to create color.
“The iconography has a translucent, floating quality that seems to bring the paintings toward the viewer as you gaze upward. It’s like nothing you’ve ever experienced,” says Mouck.
Sometimes architectural projects are alluring enough to compel Southern Californians to leave the sunshine and head for the Midwest. Engineer David Mouck, owner of the Gill Company and Phil Liptak, a dome consultant, had collaborated on the spectacular St. Andrews Antiochian Orthodox Church in Southern California.
A new project, St. George Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church in Indianapolis, led them eastward. Both projects were designed by CJK Design Group, widely noted for its architectural expertise in building traditional churches. St. George Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church has a significant dome, which for the Orthodox faith, is symbolic of eternity and heaven. Forty feet wide, the dome stands 54 feet above the ground. Mouck had worked with Radius Track in California, and knew that the company’s simple “dome in a box” solution would yield the exacting results he would need to deliver a successful result.
“Domes are grand statements, and if you are going to do one, it should be astonishing,” says Mouck. “Radius Track shipped 92 perfectly curved ribs attachable to a compression ring and all the precut plywood. All we had to do was tweak a few things and assemble it on the ground.”
While the weather was often below freezing in Indianapolis, the Southern Californians prevailed over their first Midwestern winter, sometimes using a 400,000 BTU heater to keep the snow and ice off the dome, which was assembled on the ground.
“Building the dome by hand is the only way to do it right,” asserts Mouck. The dome’s exterior stainless steel sheathing treated with a titanium nitride coating to make it sparkle and become mirror-like came to life in a metal shop temporarily relocated from California by Liptak who hand cut the metal on the site to precisely fit.