The Saint Sarkis Community Center consists of a three-building campus on five acres in Carrolton Texas that serves the congregation of the Saint Sarkis Armenian Church. The campus was conceived by visionary patron Elie Akilian as a new home for the Dallas-area Armenian community that looked backward as well as forward, combining a deep respect for Armenia’s tradition as the word’s most ancient Christian nation with an engagement with contemporary, digitally-driven construction materials and processes and a program of regeneration and renewal. The campus and building layout was planned by Akilian working with Stepan Terzyan, AIA. As the project took schematic shape Akilian and Terzyan invited David Hotson to collaborate on the development of the project in detail.
The centerpiece of the campus is the 250-seat church, which is approached through a shaded entry courtyard positioned between buildings that house an athletic facility and a parish hall building encompassing clerical offices, Sunday school classrooms, a reception hall and a 400-person event hall for major gatherings.
The gently sloping floor of the courtyard brings visitors past a reflecting pool set beneath an oculus that frames a view of the dome of the church beyond. During the hot summer months, breezes channeled through the shaded courtyard and across the reflecting pool will provide evaporative cooling to visitors entering the green compound that surrounds the church.
The church exterior is a uniform monochrome gray, achieved by matching the precast concrete exterior walls and glass fiber reinforced concrete light coves with a durable standing seam zinc roof. The solid gray mass rendered in modern materials references the monolithic sculptural character of ancient Armenian churches, which were constructed entirely of stone.
The monochrome mass of the architecture is set off against the rich multicolored vegetation designed by landscape designer Zepur Ohanian, evoking the powerful relationship between monolithic architecture and verdant landscape that is typical of the ancient churches and monastery complexes that still survive throughout the Armenian homeland.
The site is situated on a slight rise in the vast flat Texas landscape with a border of magnolia and cypress trees which will rise just above horizon, creating a private compound with the enormous sky descending to the encircling green border. From the entry to the church the campus grounds slope gently to an outdoor stage situated at the western edge of the site. Raking west light at sunset transforms the campus every evening.
The 400-seat event hall looks south into the landscaped quadrangle and west to the horizon.