HOLY TRINITY ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH, COMSTOCK PARK, MICHIGAN 1960
Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church, exterior view with modern steeple designed by Firant.
When I entered Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church, I was immediately impressed with the pairs of enormous structural steel arches that meet in the middle and frame a square skylight at the center. There is no attempt to disguise the structure — the architect stressed that it was meant to be “simple, honest and modern.” The skylight fills the sanctuary with light, and according to the architect, “symbolically brings heaven and earth together.”
"Churches should be a spark for their faith, " saidWest Michigan Architect, Edgar R. Firant, AIA, when he designed Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church on Alpine Church Road in Comstock Park, Michigan. The new church replaced a relatively new structure built in 1957 and destroyed by a devastating tornado on Palm Sunday,1965. Firant won the James F. Lincoln Arc Welding Foundation National Competition in Design in 1968 and a design award from the Grand Valley Chapter of the American Institute of Architecture in 1970 for the design of this church.
Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church, interior view with original furniture, steel structural beams and wooden screens. Photo from slide taken after construction.
Firant believed in the integrity of design and materials in architecture. He said, "A church must look like a church…If an altar is to look like marble, then use marble…Fakery and falseness have no place in a church." At Holy Trinity, the massive steel arches mingle with warm wood ceiling boards. Both the exterior and the interior walls of the church are simple brick arranged in an unusual pattern that adds beauty and required fewer bricks, creating significant savings for the congregation. Being brick, the interior walls were designed to require no additional attached ornaments.
Participants enter Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church via a paved garden meant to create a transition from their own world to a shared community experience. Simple, elegant wooden pews are arranged to bring worshipper and worship leader close together, a trend in Catholic church design at the time. A sloping ceiling enhances the worship experience with flawless acoustics, a Firant design trademark. Another signature of Firant's work was custom sanctuary furniture. For Holy Trinity, Firant's wife, artist Gerda Elisabeth Firant, designed a pair of stunning modern wood screens that could be moved to create a more intimate space for smaller gatherings, or moved to open up the space for larger groups. Today the screens are gone but the interior of the church remains beautiful and modern and you want to linger quietly to enjoy this peaceful space.
Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church continues to be an active and vital church in the community.
EDGAR R. FIRANT FACTS AT A GLANCE
Edgar R. Firant. Photo from the Firant family archive.
1917 Born in Oak Park, Illinois
1940 Completed architectural studies at Armour Institute of Technology, Chicago, Illinois and studied under Mies van der Rohe
1944 Married painter Gerda Elisabeth Swanson and had one daughter, Laurel Firant, Composer
Designed and engineered exceptional modern churches with dramatic rooflines, outstanding acoustics and custom interior features such as wooden screens and unique stained glass windows. Also created several one-of-a kind executive homes, office buildings and schools.
1961 Awarded citation for Church design, National Association of Evangelical Church Group for Christian Catholic Church, Zion, Illinois
1968 Awarded James F. Lincoln Arc Welding Foundation Award for Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church in Comstock Park
1970 Awarded AIA Grand Valley Chapter Award for Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church
1972 Died at age 55 in Grand Rapids, Michigan