A look at the viability and function of themed spaces in church design -- and what the experts forecast.
Administration and break out space, Centerpoint Church, Murrieta, Calif., image courtesy of Visioneering Studios.
“[We’re] wanting to have spaces where people can connect, not just a space for observing. It’s about engaging today.”
—Steven Chaparro, Vice President of Business Development, Visioneering Studios, Charlotte, NC
In years past, some churches have wanted to go very heavy on themes and found success, while others have been burned because many of the trends have a shelf life, and people stop responding to them.
“Our work is really at the intersection of story and space,” says Steven Chaparro, vice president of business development for Visioneering Studios, Charlotte, N.C. “Theme doesn’t always carry out to caricature but it can actually be expressed through materials, finishes and even how a space is curated and how people experience it.”
For that reason, Sharon Exley, president of Architecture is Fun in Chicago, notes that the company is creating less “themed” and more multi-functional, multi-generational spaces that serve more of the congregation and make the best use of space and resource. Given that shift, she says there needs to be more attention paid to the public space that links to all the classroom/themed spaces.
“The public spaces we are designing now in both children’s ministries and museums take their inspiration from great squares, halls and entries around the globe,” Exley says. “These spaces should speak directly to families, influence senses and impart a spiritual sensibility. They should be designed to impart a sense of order, welcome and proportion. They should say, ‘you are welcome here.’”Children’s spaces
Youth spaces, stages, and group rooms are becoming more of a focus for children’s ministry design. And while a vast majority of themed environments are created for younger children’s areas, there seems to be more of an interest in creating a cool space for teens, as well.
Architecture is Fun is creating less “themed” and more multi-functional, multi-generational spaces that serve more of the congregation and make the best use of space and resource. Image courtesy of Architecture is Fun.
Mackenzie Hastings, business development manager for Denton, Texas’s Worlds of Wow, notes that over the years the firm has partnered with many of today’s fastest growing churches and, in each case, they see two main characteristics in common: they have a unique mission and they’re reaching more families by focusing on their children’s areas.
“We’ve seen incredible growth from these churches, and in every instance, they are making their children’s area a priority by creating a fun destination for the kids,” she says. “We are designing several areas using color-blocking techniques and wall-covering as well as reclaimed wood, metal and brick⎯while still incorporating 2D appliqués, 3D sculptures and interactive play areas.”
A few of her favorite examples include Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas; Waterstone Community Church in Colorado; and Potter’s House in Fort Worth, Texas.
“We create different environments to suit all of the age groups, while still incorporating the same theme throughout the ministry,” Hastings says. “We design the space to fit the churches’ DNA … still making the area a ridiculously fun place for kids to be.”
Chaparro says the challenge of creating themes for children’s ministries is finding those that will resonate for a long time, because children are a fickle bunch. “[We’re] wanting to have spaces where people can connect, not just a space for observing. It’s about engaging today,” he says. “A lot of designs are going more masculine in finishes and colors, and that seems to be working better.”
A recent project for Visioneering Studios, the East Side Christian Church in Charlotte, N.C., offers a space for gatherings one-on-one, a space for groups of 10, and a grand space where everyone can get together to interact. “Some of the [wealthier] churches may be able to have spaces for each type of interaction and, in some other cases, they’re asking for a multi-purpose space, although it could dilute the individual experience,” Chaparro says. AVL & interaction
Churches are starting to get in line with 21st century technology and understand that their more tech-savvy congregations are interested in top audio and video elements. That’s why more designers and architects are adding these elements throughout a themed space.
“Several of our themed environments include interactive play elements and lighting,” Hastings says. “Some of our favorites are Children’s Medical Center of Dallas…. We've created immersive games, rooms with lighting that mimic an ‘under the sea’ look, a sculpture of the Dallas Reunion tower that lights up, and more.”
When it comes to AVL, Chaparro says that side screens to show more panned shots [as well as] video mapping [are] being more frequently integrated into a space to better digitally express a theme.
“When you invest a lot in themed environments, they can become redundant, and it’s costly to change out those themes,” he says. “We have seen some youth spaces change out the theme monthly by using video mapping to change the images. Even though it’s a higher cost up-front, it allows you to change things digitally much more frequently and [more] cheaply.”