Houston, TX


Moveable Type

Artist:  RE:site (Shane Allbritton and Norman Lee)

Architecture + Fabrication:  METALAB

Movable Type is a bold gesture of inclusive welcome, proclaiming the mission of the Episcopal Cathedral Church of St. Paul. Our concept is inspired by St. Paul’s progressive vision of a global and multicultural church, described in the Book of Acts. The dynamic, undulating surface carries the resonant words “boldly and without hindrance” from Acts 28:31 in over twenty languages and multiple alphabets, including the seven most-spoken languages of Boston. The words roll forward in three dimensions, seeming to escape from the classical structure of the pediment into the modern world.  Our design reinterprets classic church iconography in an innovative 21st century sculptural form. The dynamic surface of the pediment speaks to a church looking forward in mission: rooted in tradition, yet moving in surprising directions. The wave is composed of square blocks of letters and characters, inspired by movable type printing, an idea associated with the
democratic empowerment of all people. This alphabetic surface also evokes the book, one of St. Paul’s traditional symbols.  This asymmetrical, undulating shape was conceptualized using a parametric design process. The form of St. Andrew’s cross subtly emerges from the parametric surface when viewed at certain angles and lighting conditions during day and night.
Boldly and without hindrance. These words describe the Cathedral’s public mission to speak truth to power, as a progressive church in sight of the Massachusetts State House. The Book of Acts concludes with Paul in Rome, teaching about the
kingdom of God and building a new kind of multicultural community. In this spirit, St. Paul’s Cathedral speaks out boldly for justice and ministers unhindered by social barriers. Speaking truth to power was the theme of the original pediment design: Paul preaching to King Agrippa. In a more contemporary form, this design also speaks to the public role of the church to advocate for justice and bridge social barriers.  This theme of inclusion is deepened through repetition in over twenty languages. Each translation provides a window into St. Paul’s mission; together, they form a mosaic of welcome. This welcome is particularly powerful to native speakers of Haitian Creole, Spanish, or Chinese, who see a public validation of their language. At the heart of Boston Common, this multilingual design proclaims that St. Paul’s Cathedral is a house of prayer for all people.

Parametric process
Based on a set of defined parameters, parametric modeling was utilized to generate the complex forms that communicate the relationship between the undulating surface subtly depicting St. Andrew’s cross, the typography, the physical limitations of the existing
pediment, and the constraints of the pre-cast concrete molds. This design strategy allows us to
explore various design iterations while maintaining the highest degree of accuracy available with contemporary rapid prototyping techniques.

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Status: Unbuilt
Location: Boston, MA, US