May’s Blog is dedicated to the memory of the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sava in the Flatiron District NYC, which was ravaged by a large and quick consuming fire Sunday May 1, 2016.
The church building was constructed in 1850-55 and was designed by noted architect Richard Upjohn in the English Gothic Revival Style. In 1968 the city of New York declared this church a landmark.
As one of the oldest churches in New York, Saint Sava served as not only a spiritual anchor for the community, but also an architectural anchor. In a neighborhood which one could say is plagued by developers who are eager to construct new residential and commercial spaces for their financial gain, Saint Sava served as an historic Architectural marker, a memory. In a fast changing cityscape this church was a reminder that our buildings are our memories, our reference to eras gone by and are preserved to remind future generations of how people constructed and ultimately how they lived in the past.
It has been a longstanding practice of war and territorial domination that the first destruction begins with a city’s buildings and landmarks. The oppressor seeks to erase the memory and footprint of the former ruling body, therefore erasing history so their domination can be seen as new. With Architectural treasures destroyed, a new regime, government, ruling body can form history in their own manner for future generations. If there is no Architectural footprint left, history is lost.
Our Architecture contains not only history but emotion; these structures have been created to evoke a feeling, to elicit an emotion for those who enter. As an Architect and Designer, buildings are the keepers of our history and evolution, and the destruction of this church is a tragedy, not only for the church family but for the community at large who received such joy when they passed, when they took a photo or entered to find some peace amid the art, painstaking details and beauty of the structure.