Erdy McHenry Architecture of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was the architectural firm for the design of St. Aloysius Church in Jackson, New Jersey. That the building was ultimately topped with an Englert metal roof is a testament to all involved in the project, including the installer charged with its fabrication.
Erdy McHenry did extensive research into the life and ministry of St. Aloysius, which led to two significant conceptual explorations that give form to the design for the Roman Catholic Church.
“Repitching the tent” expressed in the delicate soaring roof lines evokes the concept of simple worship. Anchoring it to four massive piers at the corners provided the foundation to the building and at the same time, provided a symbolic representation of the four special devotions of St. Aloysius’ pastorate which organize the interior layout of the worship space.
The metaphor of the tent in conjunction with the four devotions of St. Aloysius yields a building rich in concept and formal expression.
The standing seam roof structure serves as a distinguishable image for the church. The roof also serves to break up the inside space acoustically, while creating an intimate feeling. The exterior walls between the ground and the roof are translucent glass, capable of bringing subtle natural lighting into the interior. A light coating color was selected to reduce the heat island effect.
David McHenry, a partner at Erdy McHenry, notes: “The standing seam, hyperbolic parabolic roof structure was a wonderful aspect of this structure and it was important that its implementation be protected during the design phase. Sometimes standing seam roofs are value engineered out of a design but in this case it was not—a real testament to the people of this church.”
Hyperbolic paraboloids are often referred to as "saddles," for fairly obvious reasons. Their official name stems from the fact that their vertical cross sections are parabolas, while the horizontal cross sections are hyperbolas. The vertical cross sections are complicated. Because it is a structure that is in perfect equilibrium and because of its complexity, the hyperbolic parabolic roof is inevitably clad using a membrane material. But McHenry felt that metal could be the only material suitable for his design. To McHenry’s knowledge, this may be the world’s first large scale hyperbolic parabolic roof ever executed in standing seam.
The architect chose an Englert Series 1300, 17 inch, 24 gauge standing seam panel for the roof material. There is more than 37,000 square feet of dove gray Galvalume metal covering the roof. Despite the impressions of curves in the valleys of the roof, no curved material was used and each panel had to be meticulously planned and installed, noted the installer, Brian Swarthout of Excel Roofing of Whiting, New Jersey, to meet the requirements of the hyperbolic parabolic design.
“These were some of the best subcontractors we have ever worked with,” Erdy noted. “We had several meetings with them while they were doing shop drawings to figure out ways to accommodate the ‘curves.’ A lot of care went into determining how the bends would be accommodated and the twists absorbed.”
Adds McHenry: “The hyperbolic parabolic type of construction is usually seen in the design of athletic facilities allowing architects to create a large open space for economy and functionality. In this case, the design was executed for the imagery and aesthetics it projected of the meeting tent rising out of the ground. The four concrete buttresses represent the pegs of the tent anchoring the roof structure while the parabolic plywood sheathings allow the “tent” structure to soar.
The abundant use of glass allows for the structure to be naturally filled by light. Yet the placement of the building and its windows coupled with large exterior earth berms were also designed to allow people to worship without distractions from the busy street nearby. McHenry referred to the individual hanging light fixtures throughout the large open space as being akin to the light of the night sky.”
Erdy McHenry’s design is a masterful blend of stone, glass and standing seam that achieves the image of the meeting tent while delivering a world class space for worship.