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Budding Bell Tower

Soft, curved copper walls communicate growth and development

Westminster Presbyterian Church Dec18 111
Photo: Andrea Rugg

Cupped together like rose petals, metal panels form a cylindrical feature at the west corner of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis. The curved panels, which are part of the church’s 46,800-square-foot addition, complement the forms, materials and concepts of the original church and addition.

The curved panels, which Robert Hunter, senior associate at Minneapolis-based James Dayton Design Ltd., calls petal walls, are a counterpart to the addition’s boxy, limestone-clad portions. The materials are complementary too. The petal walls’ exteriors are lead-coated copper, which have contrasting colors and textures with the smooth, light-colored limestone. “Lead-coated copper is a real warm material, and these are softer shapes,” Hunter says.

The original church and the addition both have copper and limestone, but they look very different. The copper on the original church is used for coping and other details. The copper on the addition is used for the primary architectural features, which include the cylindrical form at the west corner, a few more petal walls at an entrance on the opposite side of the addition from the cylindrical form, and some fascia on two wing walls. The cylindrical form will become the base of a bell tower when a steel structure to hold six, 3,000- to 5,000-pound bronze bells is added in 2019.

The limestone on the addition was honed and given a smooth finish that is lighter in color than the original church. “But it still has that stone feel to it,” Hunter says. “It’s a little heavier, and that’s in contrast to the petal walls, which are a much lighter material, more airy and more aspirational.”

The petal walls are a sandwich with lead-coated copper on the exterior, aluminum on the interior and aluminum framing, supplied by Schofield, Wis.-based Crystal Finishing Systems Inc., in between the metal claddings. They are attached to the building via a structural steel assembly at the roof, which will also support the steel assembly for the bells. The petal walls are attached with two levels of aluminum framing, girts and sub-girts.


Photo: Paul Crosby

Conceptually, the petal walls connect with the church as well. Their organic forms and dynamic copper cladding evoke growth, development, openness and lightness, Hunter says. “The lead-coated copper was also used for its exceptional durability/life span, and to meet the design goals of using a metal with natural aging characteristics that has inherent imperfections. This reflects Westminster’s belief that to live a spiritually meaningful life requires a life-long, often imperfect, development, which is always open to growth.” To construct the petal walls and other lead-coated copper elements, Maplewood, Minn.-based MG McGrath Inc. fabricated and installed 20,000 square feet of St. Louis Park, Minn.-based SPS Metals’ lead-coated copper. Additionally, MG McGrath fabricated and installed 2,000 square feet of Petersen Aluminum Corp.’s 0.04-inch aluminum sheet in Bone White. For trims, MG McGrath fabricated and installed 560 square feet of Nashville, Tenn.-based Firestone Building Products Co. Inc.’s 24-gauge steel. The project was completed in December 2017.