Skip To Content

Trinity Wall Street

In leading the extensive restoration and renovation of Trinity Church Wall Street, MBB Architects enhanced the church’s use as a magnificent house of worship and performing arts space. Improved acoustics and lighting, as well as accessibility and sustainability upgrades, make the building and grounds more welcoming than ever.

Beginning with a master plan to guide the phased renovation process, MBB balanced history and modernity at the church, a designated historic landmark built in 1846. We restored the central nave and modified the chancel (the elevated area surrounding the altar) to bring clergy and worshippers—or performers and audience members—closer together. From the repositioned pulpit to the exterior bluestone terraces, the entire church is now fully accessible. It’s also quieter, more energy efficient, more comfortable, and more spectacular.

Above the nave’s restored Gothic brownstone arches, newly painted trompe l’oeil plaster walls simulate cut stone blocks, following Richard Upjohn’s original design. Historic, brilliantly colored stained-glass windows—prized by historians of early American art—received a full off-site conservation treatment, while non-historic clerestory windows were redesigned and replaced using contextual precedents. The stained glass is now protected from the elements by unobtrusive, high-performance exterior glazing that also quiets the interior.

Along with new insulation in the ceiling, the new exterior glass helps dramatically reduce heating and cooling demands, and hence the church’s carbon footprint. Quieter air handling equipment and better acoustics also enable people to experience the full tonal richness of word, song, and the music of three new pipe organs.

Custom-designed LED pendants, clerestory sconces, and discreet ceiling lights illuminate the nave. Tucked among the clustered columns, theatrical lighting accommodates the recording and broadcast of services and performances. Conduits and A/V infrastructure are concealed beneath the reconstructed stone floors and the preserved and ergonomically improved pews. Non-historic back-of-house spaces including the vestry, sacristy, clergy staff room, and choir practice room are completely redesigned to meet the church’s current and projected needs.

Outside, reconstructed bluestone terraces and cemetery walks invite people of all abilities to engage in quiet reflection. MBB designed a new glass canopy—its steel supports conceived as a modern interpretation of gothic structural practice—along the south terrace to facilitate church processions in inclement weather.

To renew a one-of-a-kind space for worship and performing arts, MBB took inspiration from Trinity’s inclusive, humanist values. Directing a large network of consultants and contractors, we reconciled modern infrastructure and technology with the demands of historic preservation. The church today exemplifies accessible, sustainable, and beautiful design in the heart of old New York.

Select Publications & Interviews