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Project of the Year Awards


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St. Bartholemew's Catholic Church


Date Completed:

Award Description

Located in the picturesque back country of northern San Diego, St. Bartholomew's Chapel was a very small and intimate historic chapel. Originally constructed to serve the Rincon Band of Mission Indians, it was tragically destroyed by wildfires that ravaged the reservation in late 2007.

With the changing needs of the congregation and community over the past 100 years, the destroyed building presented an opportunity to update the chapel and to add a separate multi-purpose fellowship hall. The area between the two buildings created a welcome third space, a serene outdoor contemplation courtyard.

In keeping with the original structure, which lasted over 100 years, the client specifically requested a structure and skin that was designed to be highly fire-resistant and constructed of long-lasting, highly durable materials. Most of the complex features exposed finished materials that are sustainable and rated for long life cycles.

Mimicking the original structure, New Dimension Masonry built two 60-foot long, 20-foot tall, and 2 foot thick rammed earth walls that flank the sanctuary. They were made from 120 tons of dirt that was harvested directly on site. The earth walls were symbolically important because sacred soil from the reservation was literally molded to form these beautifully texted and organic walls.

The rammed earth walls are also reminiscent of the adobe construction found throughout the reservation. Both the oak wood used in the Altar furnishings and a four-ton boulder for the baptismal fonts were harvested from the reservation. There are no painted surfaces on the exterior and virtually no drywall or paint on the interiors.

In addition there are no glued-down floor coverings, which greatly improves the air quality. The wood veneered aluminum ceiling system has a very high recycled content, as do the concrete masonry block walls of the fellowship hall, and the concrete slab flooring throughout. All the base material from the parking and drive areas was created from 100% recycled content.

The Fellowship Hall was built with a four color variation of CMU that blends into the surrounding valley with a random pattern color. The 87 light portholes in the CMU on the East Side are filled with custom blue glass. These 8x2-inch prisms help reveal natural daylight as the congregation gathers for their daily fellowship.

As a gift to the Rincon Reservation community, the late 1800's Bell Tower was artfully repaired and restored by the crews of New Dimension Masonry to help preserve the spirit of the original church. The Owner, Architect, General Contractor and Subcontractors came together to give the community a renewed sense of pride in their place of worship.

The result is a facility that is beautiful and sustainable - giving a sense of pride, and performace.

Project Participants

• Owner - Rincon Band of Luiseno Indians, Valley Center, CA
• Architect/Designer - Kevin DeFreitas Architects, AIA, San Diego, CA
• General Contractor - Lusardi Construction Co., San Marcos, CA
• Masonry Contractor - New Dimension Masonry, San Diego, CA
• Masonry Supplier - RCP Block & Brick, Lemon Grove, CA

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