Taylor M. Potter

Taylor M. Potter

Fellow: Awarded 1966
Field of Study: Architecture, Planning and Design

Competition: US & Canada

United Presbyterian Church of the United States

An ordained Presbyterian minister as well as an architect, Taylor M. Potter used his Guggenheim Fellowship term for a study of Christian worship and its expression through architecture.

Reverend Potter earned a B.S. in architecture from the Pennsylvania State University in 1950, after a two-year stint in the U.S. Army Air Corps, and spent the following year as an architectural draftsman for the firm of Kewell, Kocher, and Benedict in Los Angeles. In 1952 he left that position to enter the San Francisco Theological Seminary, earning a bachelor’s degree in divinity in 1954. During his theological training, he was appointed to the Fremont Presbyterian Church as Student Assistant Pastor and on completing his studies became Assistant Pastor there.

June 1956 marked the beginning of his decades-long work for the Presbyterian Church overseas. He and some fellow church workers were assigned to India, but when their visa applications were denied, they went instead to Thailand, where for many years he was Pastor of the Wattana Church and chaplain for the Wattana Academy. Although as a divinity student he had spent the summer of 1953 in French Cameroon designing and erecting buildings in Metet and Bibia, it was in Thailand that his architectural knowledge and theological training fully meshed: in addition to his pastoral duties he designed and oversaw the construction of schools, hospitals, residences, chapels, and churches throughout that country, and from 1958 to 1966 headed the architectural office of the Church of Christ in Thailand.

On a one-year leave from his church, he spent 1961-62 as a Visiting Fellow at Princeton University pursuing the study he would continue there four years later under the auspices of his Guggenheim Fellowship. From 1968 to 1970 he worked as an architectural consultant for the international Presbyterian Church, visiting over forty countries and developing more than twenty different projects, such as schools, hospitals, and churches, during that time.

Reverend Potter was reassigned to the United States in 1971, first as a chaplain at Lewis and Clark College (1971-77), then as a staff member at the mission-run Sheldon Jackson College in Sitka, Alaska (1977-80), as an Associate Pastor at Market Square Presbyterian Church in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (1980-82), and finally as Pastor of the Mililani Presbyterian Church in Hawaii (1982-92) before his retirement to his eighteenth-century family homestead in Pennsylvania.

But wherever he was assigned by his church, he was always active as an architect as well. At Lewis and Clark, he consulted in designing its theater, science and law libraries; he also designed the campus gatehouse, and even furniture for the student commons; in Sitka, he designed and built the school’s chapel; in Harrisburg, he continued as an architectural consultant to churches and schools nationally; and in Hawaii he helped design and construct the Mililani Presbyterian Church’s new 300-seat sanctuary. Even in retirement he continues to work as a consultant in the United States and abroad, and currently he is helping with the designs of the Center for the Arts at a national study and conference center in Stony Point, New York, and a conference center and residence in Haiti.


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