The Parish of Saint Matthew: The Episcopal Church of Pacific Palisades

Welcome to Saint Matthew's!

Architecture at Saint Matthew's - A Word From the Architects

The Parish of Saint Matthew viewed the destruction of its church by fire in 1978 not simply as a loss, but as the opportunity to bring the church community together in the act of building anew. We were given the exciting charge by the vestry to involve the Parish fully in the planning and design of the church. Further, the schematic design would need to be approved by a two-thirds vote of the Parish.

In four monthly workshops, member of the congregation collaborated with us on decisions from siting the building to determining its size, facilities, layout and budget. More than 200 parishioners participated in this process and the schematic design achieved an approval of 87% of the congregation. The workshops evolved as a forum in which diverging views were synthesized. Many parishioners wanted, for acoustic and liturgical reasons, a lofty symmetrical church with a minimum of glass and wood. Another group spoke for a more informal and rustic building with intimate seating, views to the old prayer garden, extensive use of wood and a close relationship with the benign outdoors of Southern California.

The building evolved in close response to these issues as workshop participants modeled the options. Passing under low and informal porches one enters through a glass narthex to a lofty formal nave. Here, liturgical processions are framed by arches of ornamented steel that carry the major structural supports. The traditionally configured nave and transept intersect a large hipped roof, carved away in deference to favorite trees and to make courtyards and a cloister. Seating for 350 congregants is made intimate by its curved plan, allowing everyone to be within seven rows of the altar. To accommodate the desire for wood, without sacrificing acoustics, a system of wall battens was developed on walls of structural steel frame with four inches of plaster. Windows are minimized in the nave and located to frame views of the prayer garden, while a small adjoining chapel is made especially transparent for its connection to the outside. Energy-conscious parishioners suggested operable skylights at the ridge. These and the building volume obviate the need for air conditioning, while the climate allows for minimal heating. The exterior of the building is stucco with expansion joints composed to recall the 1920s half-timbered stucco of the nearby Founder's Hall.

We feel that the success and excitement of the building lies in it demonstrating that the open participation of a community can produce a building as sensitive to its time and place as can any effort of the architect alone. The building can be a specific creation of the community while the architects, as partners, lose none of their importance as makers of form and place.


Project: The Parish of St. Matthew

      • Design Architect: Moore Ruble Yudell
      • Principal-in-charge, Principal Designer: John Ruble
      • Principal Designer: Charles Moore
      • Principal Designer: Buzz Yudell
      • Project Manager: J. Timothy Felchlin, Jason Balinbin, Robert Flock, Andra Georges, Shinji Isozake, David Kaplan, David Kellen, Peter Singg
      • Planning Consultant: Jim Burns
      • General Contractors: Meskell and Sons
      • Lightings: Richard C. Peters
      • Landscape: Campbell and Campbell
      • Acoustics: Purcell & Noppe
      • Stained Glass: Jane Marquis
      • Color: Tina Beebe
      • Dale Schwartz: altar woodcrafting
      • Gary Knowlton: fine metal crafting


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