Tom Cullins and Richard Deane present on the design of St. Paul’s Cathedral

Exterior photo of the Cathedral of St. Paul's in Burlington, Vermont (Photo by Gary Hall)

On June 24, the Cathedral Church of St. Paul hosted a presentation, acoustical demonstration, and architecture tour highlighting the striking, architecturally significant background and design process of the building.

Constructed and consecrated in 1973 after the fire that destroyed the former Cathedral on St. Paul Street in February of 1971, the Cathedral’s brutalist design and stunning location are notable among downtown Burlington’s structures.

The project’s lead designer, TruexCullins Principal Emeritus Tom Cullins and current Principal Richard Deane led a presentation on the 50-year history of the Cathedral.

Competition drawing of the Cathedral of St. Paul's by Tom Cullins

Richard, a high school student during construction, spoke to his childhood experience of the old church — a neo-Gothic limestone structure that served the congregation for nearly 140 years. He then described the circumstances of the relocation of the church to its present site overlooking Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks.

Tom discussed the international design competition, which led to the selection of his design. He covered the design process, influenced by the massive urban renewal projects happening in Burlington at the time. A prevalent feeling at the time was that the new building ought both to redefine what a cathedral should look like and to return to medieval ideas about the vital role of a cathedral in its city. The built structure, made of stressed concrete, stands firm yet welcoming, with interiors warmed by white oak and light that floods in from skylights and vast curtain windows — including the south wall’s great window, which takes in the panoramic views of the region. The cathedral’s concert-quality acoustics and custom, artisan-built organ provide a community home to the fine and performing arts, lectures, and discussions.

Mark Howe, the Cathedral’s Director of Music led the group in acoustical demonstration showcasing the nave’s excellence as a live music venue.

And wrapping up the afternoon, docent-led tours highlighted a unique perspective of the interiors of this sacred space, designed for its functionality, flexibility, and beauty.

Interior photo of Cathedral of St. Paul's (1973) Interior photo of Cathedral of St. Paul's (present day) Competition drawing of Cathedral of St. Paul's by Tom Cullins