Saint Jerome Catholic Church in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin
Groth Design Group Inc.
The project, which received an honourable mention in the “Ceramic Tiles of Italy Design Competition” in 2009, concerns part of an architectural complex made up of a church and a school.
The new wing of the church, built in 2004, ties up with the existing school site. Like other churches designed by Groth Design Group, this project achieves a strong sense of spirituality through a solid material presence.
It combines several functions without detracting from the significance of the religious building typology. Alongside the worship areas themselves, this new church also includes multifunctional spaces such as offices and a nursery garden. For centuries, church complexes have created high-quality spaces through the interplay of different styles and languages, and this project is likewise based on a strong structure which organises space and form while taking on a symbolic role. The project was chosen for the simplicity of its geometry, in line with the requirements of the place of worship and its meticulous attention to construction details and finishes.
Inside, the impressive and articulated high vaulted drywall ceiling is supported by stone columns with tiled floors. The space is surrounded by large stained glass windows that contrast with the muted tones of the interior. The evenly diffused lighting and the use of natural materials creates a sense of intimacy and spatial contemplation. The exterior, flanked by a bell tower, is lined with stone alternating with brick, while the roof is shingled.
Extensive use was made of porcelain tile from the Ambienti series by Caesar, chosen in colours Courvilie and Botticino. The main aisle of the worship space is highlighted by two colours of tiles laid in a herringbone pattern. The tiles were chosen in a strip format to highlight the main axis of the church, alternating with a 30×30 cm size alongside the altar.
The choice fell on a collection inspired by high-quality natural stone in warm and clear colours that dialogue harmoniously with the other materials used inside the church, such as wood and bricks.
The organ balcony was likewise clad with the same ceramic tiles as the main body of the church, combining an aesthetic function with superior acoustic performance. This project was an opportunity to experiment with the potential of ceramic tile for use in places of worship following the changes that modern culture has made to this building typology. Architects must propose new solutions based on the quality of spaces: the idea of the sacred is an absolute and essential component that must be reformulated to counteract the fragility of modern-day culture.
Courvilie (light yellow), Botticino Reale (light Beige), Balmoral (dark brown)