Posted in education on February 28, 2017 1:03 pm EST

Breaking Down Sightlines

There's more to the concept of sightlines than unobstructed views to the worship space platform. A comprehensive look from the architect's point of view.

Image by Ketterman.











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TAGS: aesthetics, architectural design, functionality, sightlines, worship space,


By Chuck Hulstrand

The first significant sightline is determined at the masterplan stage: the view of the worship center from the road.

When it comes to the worship experience, connection is paramount. Connection to the spiritual realm starts with a sense of connection to the message, the worship leaders, and the congregation. These connections are all supported by the careful design of the worship center’s sightlines, physical or digital, and are critical to welcoming, orienting, and engaging all who join in worship.

Sightlines start with the master plan

The first significant sightline is determined at the masterplan stage: the view of the worship center from the road. Most people arrive by car; ideally, worshippers should be able to see a significant building from a distance, and the entry drive should be highly visible even at vehicular speeds. As people pull in, they should have a clear view of the worship center’s entry to orient them to the parking lot and pathways to the entry itself.

Pathway to worship

In addition to a well-defined path to the entry, visitors should be able to see something even more important: an openness in the architecture that tells them they’re approaching a place where they can connect with others. Instead of a closed-off fortress, the worship center’s entry should be transparent enough to show movement, activity, and vibrancy. People may be gathering outdoors on terraces and be visible on the interior. This sightline to activity and fellowship subtly puts people at ease, confirming that they have arrived at the right place at the right time—and that they have reached an energized place.

Walking through the door

From the first steps through the door, sightlines to key elements should be obvious: children’s check in, youth areas, coffee stations, and restrooms. Clear views to information on procedures and schedules will go a long way towards helping people get acclimated. The first view should include light, energy, people, and screens or signage with information and cues to orientation. Many newcomers would prefer to enter a worship center and self-navigate, taking time to become comfortable within the space without having to ask for directions. In the same area, easy-to-spot kiosks with interactive screens for event sign-ups and other information allow people to complete tasks as easily as possible.

Entering the place of worship

As people enter the gathering area to prepare for worship, a clear sightline to the auditorium itself should highlight a celebrated, significant entry point. Often designers use light and color to draw the eye from any vantage point in the lobby. Materials such as backlit translucent panels act like a beacon calling the congregation to worship. This entry builds a sense of anticipation and reminds worshippers of the significance of the space. Just past this threshold, people may encounter something to draw their eyes upward, such as a super graphic projection or countdown clock to build excitement for worship, which encourages them to look around and engage with the space.

During worship

As worship begins, maintaining sightlines from the seating area to worship leaders and video screens may require sloped floors, stadium seats, a raised stage, or a combination of the three. The primary sightline should be from the congregation to the people leading in worship and music. In some traditional worship centers, the sightlines screen the choir and other musicians from view to create a particular mood of reverence and serenity. During the speaking parts of the service, large congregations rely on image magnification (IMAG) to broadcast a close-up of the speaker’s face onto large screens. Since people are more focused on the screen than on the speaker, it is important that the sightline creates a comfortable viewing relationship between the worshipper and the screen.  continued >>