Saint George’s Nave Renovation

Saint George’s Episcopal Church

Arlington, Virginia


Saint George’s Episcopal Church has served the Arlington community for over 100 years. The original church building on this site was erected in 1911. The church grew with many additions over the years: Parish Hall in 1933, Nave in 1952, Organ Chamber in 1955, Administration Wing in 1958, and expanded in 1996. Since 1975, the original 1911 chapel has served as a worship  space to La Iglesia San José.


GBR was initially engaged for planning services to determine the best use for current space and to consider if another expansion was necessary. After evaluation of needs and budgets, it was determined to focus on renovation of the three main spaces: Nave, Parish Hall and Chapel. For sacred spaces, such as this, generations of families have attended worship, weddings, and baptisms, so preserving the architectural character of the spaces was a top priority.


The focus of the renovation was to provide a more welcoming space and access to all.  The main barrier in the Nave was the original chancel and choir area; built three steps above the congregation with the altar an additional 4 steps up.   This not only created a visual barrier but also posed a physical barrier between the congregation and the officiants.  It also did not allow those who were less mobile to participate in communion alongside their fellow congregants.  Finally, the existing HVAC was loud and did not provide adequate ventilation throughout the space as all the supply came from the corners.


To provide accessibility, the entire chancel and choir area of the Nave was lowered to the congregation level.   The parish also chose to switch from pews to chairs to allow accessible seating anywhere in the Nave and provide more flexibility on how the space is used.   Outside of regular Sunday worship, there are regular Contemplative Nights using an inlayed Prayer Labyrinth floor.  A new HVAC supply system provides quiet cooling and ventilation evenly throughout.  Heating is through a radiant floor system.  Music Ministry is an integral part of worship, so a new sound system was a requirement.  In the near future the parish plans to replace their aging organ, so creating a space to allow for replacement was a must.  As with all worship spaces the lighting is an integral part to worship, a new energy efficient LED lighting system was installed.