In a hub of suburbia sits a new homage to an idyllic Lowcountry tradition, that of the beach house, a sprawling place where generations bond over oysters roasts, bocce and the beauty of God’s creation.
Yet this beach house isn’t on a beach. Rather, it sits in a gardenesque expanse of Christ Our King Catholic Church’s campus in Mount Pleasant.
The new 6,700-square-foot building named The Beach House unites the church’s large youth and senior ministries, previously housed in obsolete houses on opposite ends of the campus, beneath one soaring, heavy timber-truss ceiling.
A brainchild of parish pastor Msgr. James Carter, The Beach House could become a model for sustaining intergenerational bonds while also sustaining the natural world. It is the first building in the statewide Catholic Diocese of Charleston to dovetail youth and senior ministries and is the first “green” facility as well, Carter said.
The $2.2 million building was paid for by Christ Our King members.
With its 9,000 members, Christ Our King is among the largest parishes in the diocese. And large churches can present large challenges for forming close relationships.
So Carter looked to his own childhood, namely his grandparents’ beach house on Sullivan’s Island. He wanted to create a church space that fostered similar bonds across generations, the kind that too often are lost today.
“We’re such a mobile society that I didn’t know how many kids knew their own grandparents,” Carter said. “Getting these groups together has always been in my mind.”
He had long admired the energy youths bring to local nursing homes when they visit. But how to re-create that on a church campus?
“There was no paradigm for this model where we could do things together, where the energy of youths and the wisdom of seniors could come together,” Carter said.
He approached architect Lauren Sanchez, a parishioner and owner of Lauren Sanchez Design. Her family also shared the beach house tradition.
“You leave your work and go to an Edisto or Sullivan’s beach house, and everyone is there,” Sanchez said. “It’s very person-focused.”
As the beach house concept jelled, Sanchez and Carter gathered 35 youths and seniors to brainstorm a floor plan. Response was positive right off.
One teen declared: “I’d love to get to know some old people.”
Inside, a painting waiting to be hung depicts the home that inspired the 11-room Beach House, which was dedicated April 14.
With 1,800 square feet of wide outdoor porches, decorated with light woods and the blue-gray of a cloudy ocean day, it balances elegant with casual to reflect traditional Lowcountry beach houses.
House activities revolve around the Great Room, a cavernous common space with two-story timber-truss ceilings and dormer windows to usher in natural light.
Situated between the junior and senior wings, the Great Room includes a large TV with Wii, pool and foosball tables, a sound system, couches and a double-sided tabby fireplace that also opens to a wide side porch with an oyster roast table.
Seniors use the space for aerobics and Pilates classes, and it can be filled with chairs to accommodate speakers. Soon the room will include drums, guitar and other instruments to bring music to the mix.
The next room over is The Cafe, a kitchen and eating area with a long, high coffee-shop-style table where teens can sit with laptops and leave messages on a long magnetic chalkboard. One recent day, it featured a Bible verse:
“Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” (Timothy 4:12)
In here, seniors can teach youths to cook; youths can teach seniors computer skills.
But should the room turn rowdy with middle and high schoolers, a giant barn door slides over to disconnect the kitchen from the main gathering room.
That gives seniors recreational and work space, including a quiet reflection room in the front of the building, while youths get the back area. Mingling is great, but different generations also need their own spaces, Sanchez noted.
Farther back in the house, the youth area includes brighter colors and hangout space for pizza parties and work on service projects. A back porch includes a large grill and porch, sand volleyball court, bocce, life-size chess set, horseshoes and a long vegetable garden.
Called Mary’s Garden, the edible garden is maintained by the students of Christ Our King-Stella Maris School across the street. It’s named after parishioner Mary Marquardt, who died of cancer at 16 in 2007.
Now, across a path, sits the seniors’ garden.
Mature live oaks and swaths of grass and gardens grant the whole area a serenity that beckons seniors and youths outdoors.
Joey Bradshaw, the parish’s grounds superintendent, created a system of winding paths and sidewalks that connect The Beach House and its neighboring Russell House (free space for the public to hold meetings) to an outdoor worship area, the parish’s school and its sanctuary.
“This completes these portions of the campus,” said Chip Crane, a Hill Construction vice president and church member.
The Beach House wasn’t designed only to sustain relationships. It also helps to sustain God’s creation.
Incorporating green building practices was paramount to the parishioners involved in designing and building it.
The building received the EarthCraft Light Commercial certification for environmentally responsible design and construction practices. The Beach House is the first church campus facility to ever receive the certification, Crane said.
“Being good stewards was very important,” Sanchez said.
Among the practices used:
Landscaping grown on-site or reclaimed during site clearing.
Wood framing harvested from a certified forest.
Low-flow toilets and sinks.
LED and fluorescent lighting.
An underground drip-irrigation system.
Gravel parking lot and underground stormwater collection system.
“We had two inefficient buildings before. The space was inefficient, and the cost was inefficient,” Crane said. “All of this will keep the building’s life cycle costs down.”
And also better direct resources toward the building’s purpose: nurturing relationships.
Reach Jennifer Hawes at 937-5563, follow her on Twitter at @JenBerryHawes or subscribe to her at facebook.com/jennifer.b.hawes.