Malibu Presbyterian Church

In 2007 the “Canyon Fire” engulfed Malibu Presbyterian Church which was fully in flames less than five minutes after the flames began licking at it, resulting in a complete loss. The overall process took four years, beginning with meetings with church leaders and members to come up with plans that captured their desire for a memorable place to worship. Domusstudio took a year designing the new structure, which utilizes the most current construction technology and integrated design features to enhance the worship experience.

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This project presented some challenging components. Malibu Presbyterian is located in the most stringent seismic zone, highest wind zone, and highest fire zone in California. Acoustical and view/visibility issues dominated the design beyond the technical code items.

From the start of the design, we were faced with conflicting desires between maximizing the view and providing an acoustically dead space for a contemporary worship style. The final design was basically a glass box which maximized all the views and visually presented itself to the community as open and transparent – not a closed black box. We teamed with Shen, Milsom & Wilke, LLC. out of San Francisco to acoustically treat and deaden the space within and to acoustically protect the neighbors from sound exiting the building required by a city sound ordinance. The result is a contemporary theater style venue that is acoustically equivalent to a black box type facility with amazing views to the Pacific Ocean. The main space also had to be acoustically separated from rooms located below. The use of resilient dampening isolators on the lower level’s walls, mechanical ducts, lighting, fire sprinklers and other mechanical equipment will prevent sound from traveling from the Sanctuary floor down to the lower level where Sunday school will take place during worship

The seating area of the main floor and the balcony used arched theater seating to create a sense of community and maintain as few as rows as possible to create an intimate venue.

In regards to fire issues, two-hour fire resistant stone-clad exterior walls were chosen to meet the code and architectural criteria. A single-sloped copper roof and non-combustible materials throughout also helped meet the fire requirements. Meanwhile, tinted laminated glass, high-efficiency lighting and mechanical systems were incorporated to improve energy efficiency and reduce the structure’s carbon footprint.