Birmingham Unitarian Church

Birmingham, Michigan

The Birmingham Unitarian Church is situated on 3.8 acres along Woodward Avenue in Birmingham. The original building, designed by modernist architect, Minoru Yamaski, has undergone several additions since the late 1990s. Much of the landscape had evolved with the building and was composed in a piecemeal manner and had been in the same place for many years with minimal maintenance. In accordance with the mission of Birmingham Unitarian Church, The Johnson Hill Land Ethics Studio was challenged to design a long-term, ecologically responsible site plan that would encourage members and visitors to prosper spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, and socially.


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The Johnson Hill Land Ethics Studio worked with the church to develop a cohesive overall site and landscape master plan that can be used to guide future site improvement decisions. The site was made up of a series of interrelated indoor and outdoor spaces, offering the opportunity for church members to gather, interact and build community within the Church, or to go individually to contemplate and reflect. The church was largely concerned with creating a sense of arrival, strong identity, intimate gathering and seating areas, and places for contemplation. JHLE focused design efforts on the arrival and drop-off area, the entry to the main building, several courtyards, and a special area located in the northwest corner of the property, Memorial Glen. The design reflects one of the core principles of Unitarian Universalism, great value in the careful stewardship of the natural environment.