By Jeffrey Leopold
Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church, while not technically located on The Ohio State campus, is widely regarded as so due to its location and outreach to Ohio State students. The church is located at the corner of West Woodruff Avenue and North High Street. It hosts a worship service for all people and also one specifically for the Ohio State community.
In addition to this, the church has a service on Wednesday’s and hosts many events that outreach into the Columbus community to help those in need. The church was designed in 1951 by the architects Brooks and Coddington in a mid-century modern style. The main focal point of the front façade is the steel cross that soars into the sky far above the roof of the main sanctuary and represents an axis mundi relating to the heavens. The church encompasses a courtyard that faces south out towards West Woodruff Avenue and invites people in.
This courtyard creates a figural voided space in the site of the church and is a great place for outdoor gatherings. There is a nice variety of plants and trees in the courtyard along with benches for seating. Where the opening to the courtyard is, there is a sheltered walkway that acts as an outdoor connection from the East wing of the church to the West wing. The main nave of the church is an A-frame structure with the front wall made entirely of glass to draw people in and let in as much natural light as possible. This A-frame closely resembles the pointed arches that were its precedent due to their high popularity in gothic cathedrals. Even more, the church also encompasses all the main parts of a gothic cathedral: the nave, apse, side aisles, westworks, and transept. The end of the nave, at the apse where the altar is located, opens up into a box shape that rises above the A-frame and allows in clerestory light from above. Furthermore, the West wall of the nave that faces out to the courtyard is made of mostly glass to connect the sanctuary to the courtyard and allow in more light while the East wall that faces out to High Street is made of brick with a few windows. The West wing of the building is designated to be the student center and has the same A-frame structure of the main sanctuary but of a smaller scale and facing perpendicular to the sanctuary.
One of the many interesting features of this church is the gallery space in the basement of the student center wing. This gallery hosts changing exhibits that are open to the public and sometimes showcase Ohio State students work.The church underwent a renovation in 1994 by Bass Studio Architects to repair parts of the building that were not well maintained. In addition, Bass Studio also repaired some interior aspects of the building including light fixtures.
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