By Tim Gilmore
A building should relate to its site, respect its position and location, and take its cues from its landscape. Of all the things Ted Pappas learned from Frank Lloyd Wright, these principles would remain the most important.
Since the 1960s, Ted Pappas has been designing some of Northeast Florida’s most interesting new structures and preserving some of its most historically significant. Through much of 2021, I walked with Ted and his son and business manager Mark Pappas, through a score of the architect’s most important buildings from the past 50 years. The result was my 2022 book Box Broken Open: The Architecture of Ted Pappas, published by the Florida Historical Society Press.
In 1968, when Ted was a young architect whose parents had immigrated from Greece, he was chosen to design the new sanctuary for St. John the Divine Greek Orthodox Church. As always, Ted incorporated ancient ideas into new ideas. The façade emphasizes the vertical, with its high steps and tall columns, a contemporary expression of a classical Greek temple. Ted made Roman barrel vaults modern by using reinforced concrete and cantilevering them over the entrance. This would be the start of a career designing contemplative spaces—churches, libraries, shrines.
Ted describes his 1978 Resurrection Catholic Church as looking like a ship’s prow; when Mark was little, he called it the spaceship. From the rear entrance, the roofline starts low and tilts slightly upward, then as it approaches the altar and apse, the angles dart skyward, resulting in a corner centered on a series of tiered triangles pointing straight up into the cross on top.
Ted’s design for St. Photios Greek Orthodox National Shrine in St. Augustine also feels both ancient and contemporary. It breaks open the box, one of Ted’s favorite sayings, then makes of it a frame for interior arches. That box is the reconstructed Avero House, the place in St. Augustine where Greeks first worshipped.