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Entrant Name
Verge Architecture, Leah Martin

Design Team
Leah Martin, Principal Architect Vikram Prakash, Principal Steve Duncan, Designer Megan Ruhlach, Graphic Designer

Collaborators
Contractor, Ryan GC Structural Engineer, Strong Work Structural Engineering Civil Engineer, The Concept Group & Pacific Engineering Design Mechanical Engineer, Matthews Consulting Electrical Engineer, Wood Harbinger Acoustical Engineer, SSA Acoustics & Forrest Sound Surveyor, Acreage Land Surveying Color & Palette, Anne Viggiano Color & Design 3D Rendering, Kobold Studios

Owner / Client


$109

All Submissions > Scale 2: Building Scale

This small project tells a big story. The completion of the Seattle Vietnamese Church is the tale of a dedicated community, a road fraught with obstacles and the triumph of resourcefulness, ingenuity and sheer willpower. Negligent consulting and poor design had left this community short of money and a long way from their dream. We believe good design is a civic duty, not a privilege. So when we were hired to redesign the building, we preformed our duty.

Churches of the past were grand civic gestures. They defined the central squares of cities and towns. Money poured into them. They were the community place maker. Too many of today’s churches are inward facing and utilitarian. A tiny budget should not be a barrier to re-animating the spirit of community.

For $109 per square foot we created a cultural and religious building for a vibrant Vietnamese community that stretches to distant corners of the State. The Seattle Vietnamese Christian Church is located in White Center and every weekend people from as far as Bellingham flood in to celebrate, share food and share culture. Just a few small ideas with big design impact and a low price tag allowed us to, instead, create a building that delights not only the congregation but touches the spirit of the neighborhood at large. These $109 moments enable the building to celebrate design rather than turn its back on it:

Form: Iterative formal and massing studies.
Siding: Common materials used in an unexpected manner.
Mural: Identify and paint graphics on the most visible surfaces.
Kitchen: Hand over the design and build of the room that the congregation considered the heart of the project.
Signage: The signage is the cladding

When executed in unison the resulting building connects Seattle’s extended Vietnamese community to its place in the culturally diverse heart of White Center. The Church’s appeal to the broader community makes it a sought after event space for other neighborhood events, strengthening civic ties and providing a revenue stream to help sustain the Vietnamese community for years to come.