Texas church named 'US Building of the Year' by int'l architecture group
CARROLLTON, Texas — An Armenian Orthodox church in Texas has been named U.S. Building of the Year by an international group of architects and engineers.
Saint Sarkis Armenian Church, located north of Dallas, was voted as the top American architectural work in 2022 by World-Architects, an online publisher with national and regional platforms representing architects, landscape architects, interior designers, engineers, lighting designers, manufacturers, and architectural photographers from over 50 countries.
Spanning over 4.5 acres, the church site includes three separate structures: the church building and sanctuary, gym and youth center, and a hall for offices, classrooms and a kitchen.
Saint Sarkis held its first Sunday service on April 24, 2022, coinciding with the day of remembrance for the 1.5 million victims of the 1915 Armenian Genocide, a theme that figures prominently in the church’s design.
In honor of the Genocide’s victims, on the walls of the sanctuary are engraved 1.5 million circular icons, each uniquely designed as a testimony to the lives that were lost. And when viewed from a distance, the icons blend seamlessly into a “Tree of Life” in the shape of a traditional Armenian cross that overhangs the glass doors leading into the sanctuary.
Designed by architect David Hotson, the sanctuary building hearkens back to the architecture of what is considered to be the world’s first Christian nation of Armenia, which adopted Christianity in the early third century.
As are all Armenian Orthodox churches, Saint Sarkis is modeled after the ancient church of Saint Hripsime, which was completed in 618 AD and is still standing in the Armenian capital of Yerevan.
Inside the sanctuary at Saint Sarkis is an altar with an image of a young Jesus sitting in the lap of Mary which is adorned with flowers and other artifacts in the tradition of Armenian Orthodox churches.
Led by Fr. Ghevond Ajamian, Saint Sarkis began as a community of just a handful of families in the late 1970s and early 1980s, meeting at a private home before the house was converted into a church in November 1991.
With about 800 families now involved with the parish, the church is run by Ajamian and a parish council that consists of nine members voted on annually by the parishioners. Saint Sarkis serves as the parish home for all Armenians in North Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.
After a groundbreaking ceremony in 2016, Saint Sarkis took about six years to build, Ajamian said, “mainly because we didn’t account for COVID, or supply chain issues, or just random mistakes.”
When asked about being named the U.S. Building of the Year, Ajamian said while he wasn’t personally impacted one way or the other, it’s definitely an honor to have that recognition.
“From what I have heard, it is a very big deal and everyone is excited about it,” he said.
Funded by entrepreneur Elie Akilian at an estimated cost of upwards of $20 million, the project took longer than anticipated, pushing the original consecration date back from February 2018 until it was finally completed in April 2022.
Under the jurisdiction of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church in America and the Catholicosate of Etchmiadzin, located in Armenia, Saint Sarkis adheres to the Nicaean Creed from the Council of Nicea in 325 AD.
The church itself is named after a 4th-century Roman soldier who became a Christian and was later martyred for his faith.
But despite the church’s rich Christian heritage, being located in the “belt buckle of the Bible Belt,” Ajamian said, has its unique challenges, especially in a culture dominated by Baptist and nondenominational megachurches.
“It’s not so much, ‘Alright, you do incense,’ or ‘Oh, you celebrate Christmas on this day and I do it on this day,’” he said. “It's more like, ‘Do you preach the Gospel? Do you try and show Christ in your actions and do you bring people to Christ?’”
“If you’re doing these kinds of things, then I think we’re all on the same page.”
Ian M. Giatti is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: email@example.com.