Posted in education
on January 1, 2017 2:28 pm EST
A Primer on Worship Space Design
For an artist, the hardest part of creation is often the first brushstroke. For an architect, it's certainly no different -- especially in an endeavor as challenging as worship space design. Here, a look at where and how to begin.
Church of the Highlands, Birmingham, Ala. Image courtesy of Live Design Group.
For an artist, the hardest part of creation is often the first brushstroke. For a writer, it’s the first sentence. For a musician, it’s the first chord played in a quiet room. Why? A blank canvas can be very intimidating. There’s quite a bit of pressure to start strong.
It’s the same with architecture, especially in an endeavor as challenging as worship center design, but it helps to have a solid plan and an understanding of the big picture before diving in and tackling the details. Where to begin?Just before worship starts
For worship centers, the step just before worship begins is a great place to start designing. In a theater, the space outside the auditorium would be called “pre-function space,” and it’s likely to serve several key purposes: providing a welcoming space for gathering and fellowship, encouraging the congregation to transition from everyday life into worship mode, and building anticipation for the worship experience. What details must be considered?
Whether industrial or modern or formal, this important space reflects the personality of the congregation and lets people know what to expect in worship.
The size of the congregation will inform the proportions of the space, and the unique identity of the worship center will help in the selection of materials and finishes that reflect the group’s values. Whether industrial or modern or formal, this important space reflects the personality of the congregation and lets people know what to expect in worship.
Contemporary worship centers, in particular, often use this space to heighten excitement before worship. Doors remain closed as people gather, while graphics, music, and countdown screens build anticipation for worship. At the designated time, the congregation enters to music, lights, or video designed to create a special experience and make the worship space feel dynamic and alive.Taking a seat
Inside the worship space itself, the seating layout is typically the first design element that needs to be resolved. Understanding the identity of the congregation is the key to tailoring to the needs of the space to the worship service. How many seats are required?
North Point Community Church, Atlanta. Image courtesy of Bertolini.
A space that is too large for the crowd will feel empty, while a space designed only for current capacity leaves little room for growth, so this balance is important. During the service, will the focus be entirely on the stage, or is congregational engagement important? The former lends itself to seats oriented in one direction, while the latter suggests a layout that wraps around the stage for a sense of connection. How can the design help to maintain good sight lines throughout the space? The deeper the space, the higher seats towards the rear will need to be, which may require sloped floors or stadium seating. Will the service be broadcast on screens? If so, the design team needs to coordinate closely with AVL consultants to ensure that worshippers don’t have to turn away from the stage to see the screen. Ideally, the presenter and screens will be close enough to make the experience feel cohesive, even from the seats in the back.