Diego Vega – The Riverside Church

Diego Vega

Professor Gold

ENG 1101

December 18, 2012


New York is the city that features the ancient and modern architecture. The Riverside Church is one of the most important, and emblematic Baptist ancient churches established in Manhattan in 1927. The Riverside Church is remarkable in all possible ways; from the decoration and spaces inside to the contour and the structure which is strengthened by steel frames. Designed by the firm of Allen, Pelton and Collens. Henry C. Pelton and Charles Collens and conceived by John D. Rockefeller is nowadays the tallest church in The United States. Besides its beauty and the preservation of its architecture, the Riverside Church has been always characterized by the important role that it fulfills with the community. Since its initiation this church has worked as a daycare center, classroom, library and auditorium for people. In addition, The Riverside Church is very well recognized because here it was where the memorable Martin Luther King Jr. gave his biggest speeches; consequently, at the present time The Riverside Church still takes care of the needy people by making movements that help to stop immigration detentions and to help asylum seekers by giving them opportunities for a better living.

As we know the exterior of a structure is what gives you the first ideas and consequently, you are able to express your own point of view of it. My first impressions and ideas to look at the Riverside church were like to look at the immune symbol of this town. The Riverside church for instance, has a big impact in Manhattan because of its architecture and design that have been very influential to other churches around the city. I can say The Riverside church is a great example of how the church should be constructed. Moreover; the good combination between the materials in the structure (supported on its steel frame) and the contour which is composed by figures sculpted in the concentric arches that represent leading personalities of religion and philosophy. All of these components are essential for the architecture of the church and for people who have the opportunity to admire the church day by day.

In addition to this, the atmosphere in the inside of the Riverside Church seems to be magnificent in its entire splendor; the decoration and tradition do not even loss it appraised value yet. In the book “The Riverside Church” from the “Library of Congress” says that “The building, spacious enough for today’s expanded program, is beautiful as it recalls the tradition of an inspired religious yet” (pg. 17). In other words, people find the spaces of this place very comfortable in the activities, meetings, concerts, mass, etc. that is why the importance and the architectural concept of the riverside church is indubitable superior. The area that this church occupies we can say that is considerably sufficient because each part and sections that The Riverside Church possess is related with the neighboring buildings; Visualizing, one can see that there is a strong connection between this church with the outside because practically, in this zone are gathered religious and educational institutions, public packs, and the neighboring communities.

In relation with Mother Nature, The Riverside Church is perfectly well located because one can reach the Riverside Park and the Hudson River by just giving some steps away from the church. I might think that all these issues about the location where the Riverside church now is, were very well planned and analyzed before its construction; nowadays one can see the advantage that is to have a park close to this church. In my own experiences, I used to go to the riverside park after my English classes at The Riverside Church. Going to the park, I could find myself in a state of meditation and I was able to think about the things I learned during the whole day while I explored and breathed the fresh air of the trees; for me combining these two times was perfect: the time at the church and at the park because we as architects have to consider the other options that the residents of a neighborhood can have besides of a church or any other establishment.

It is very interesting that a person can have different kinds of feelings depending on the place that he or she is; the way of how a place can affect the excitements of a person; as a result, It allows this person to describe the architect’s characteristic easily and to know what the purpose of this architect was in making a structural design by being in the corresponding place. As we know, overall, a church is a place where a person feels calm, happiness, inspiration, peace, sadness, etc. all these feeling are connected with the moment, but if we look at a church as critics we will feel something different for example, a feeling of admiration and gladness this is what I feel when I look at The Riverside Church. Even watching this church from far you can notice the amazing design of what this church is made of, and feel the desire and eagerness to see more. Once you enter to The Riverside Church many types of feelings run through your body, you can feel amazement and respect toward the church because there no such beauteous and very well maintained place as The Riverside Church.

Besides, One of the other things that I found interesting is that the windows of The Riverside Church that “are a symphony of stained glass and color” (pg. 37) have a special representation that make people feel inspired and attracted by the beauty that these reflect. In the book of “The Riverside Church” the author says that “The windows are the crowning glory to the magnificent architecture of the church” (pg. 37). This means that these are not just regular windows; these are made according to the wonderful design and architecture of the church, and the meaning of these affect people in many good ways. It is noteworthy that the aisle windows relate directly to modern history, but that basically are also relate to the above principles.

The Riverside Church has a fascinating history in which there were many controversies and obstacles that would have faded the dreams of the congregation who aspired to have a church, which is nowadays The Riverside Church. Obstacles such as, “In December 21, 1989, an electric fire on the wooden scaffolding spread through the entire nave” (pg. 80). This fact caused a strain on the enthusiasm of the congregation, but it also led to these people to a challenge; the challenge to achieve the dream of building a much more wonderful church. With the passing of the years The Riverside Church became not only a church, but an essential establishment where important people gathered to discuss about difficult situation that the week people had to face at that time. Even now, The Riverside Church is still to serve the community for instance, people who have no a place to live, the church has program in which is responsible to search for a place or home-seekers for these people.

In conclusion, I personally think that the built of The Riverside Church has been to what I called a good purpose for the city and people. Its Gothic architecture beautifies the city and it is a unique symbol that represents the hard work of many people who made the dream of building one the most precious churches in the world comes true. Structurally, The Riverside Church possess the required qualities and materials to become a structure very well built; that is way The Riverside Church was designed a New York City Landmark by The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 2000. Functionally, this is an example to follow and I am not talking about in still keeping the tradition alive; I am talking about the people who are part of the Riverside Church; the dedication of these people with the church to make groups and organize events that help the needy. I considered the Riverside Church a magnificent object in all its aspects; worth valuing the importance, the foundations and the new concepts that The Riverside Church has given to the world that we live now. “The beauty of proportion and perspective, of symbolism and color would speak to the soul even when the voice… is silent” Harry Emerson Fosdick in the book “The Riverside Church”.





“The Riverside Church.” N.p., n.d. Web. http://www.worldcat.org/title/history-of-the-riverside-church-in-the-city-of-new-york/oclc/53330987

Annotated Bibliography

All the information stated in this essay was taken from the books given cordially by The Riverside Church. Books that tell the history, events and controversies occurred through the years at The Riverside Church.

Book #1: “The History of the Riverside Church in the City of New York” Peter J. Paris, John Wesley Cook, James Hudnut – Beumler, Lawrence H. Mamiya, Leonora Tubbs Tisdale, and Judith Weisenfeld with a foreword by Martin E. Marty.

Book #2: “The Riverside Church” given by the church.

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