Atkin Olshin Schade Architects

Atkin Olshin Schade Architects

Philadelphia, PA | Santa Fe, NM


Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church

The sanctuary renovation at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church features acoustical, mechanical and aesthetic improvements to the existing structure, designed by noted Philadelphia architects Karcher & Smith in the style of a traditional English parish church.  New ceiling and wall finishes correct the sanctuary’s previously flawed acoustics, enhancing the congregation’s superb music program.  A new decorative painting scheme and accent up-lighting for the ceiling dramatically enhances the quality of light in the space.  Additional improvements include a re-engineered choir loft for a new mechanical action pipe organ with an extension to support a new, larger console.  New air conditioning and fire protection systems increase both the comfort and safety of the congregation. The new building fabric conceals all ductwork and sprinkler piping.


The interior sanctuary walls had originally been clad with hollow acoustical tile, considered in the 1920s to be a state-of-the art interior surface material for ecclesiastical projects.  Over time, the church discovered that tile’s hollow cavity did not sustain the notes produced by the pipe organ and choir.  Likewise, we discovered that the tongue and groove oak ceiling was not solid, but thin planking suspended from a modern steel frame structure.  The cavity between the ceiling and structure above created a dead air space that prevented a quality bass response.  To redress the acoustical problems, 5” thick stressed-skin composite panels were laminated to the existing decking to increase stiffness and reverberation time at the ceiling.  In addition, synthetic plaster was directly applied over the acoustical tile, mitigating its negative effect.

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Status: Under Construction
Location: Bryn Mawr, PA, US
My Role: Architect