Posted in news on April 24, 2017 2:10 pm EDT

Veteran Church Architect Joins Southeast Church Design Firm

Seasoned architect Dave Benham joins a tight-knit church design team, Live Design Group, based in Birmingham, Ala.

Architect Dave Benham joins Live Design Group in Birmingham, Ala.











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TAGS: architectural design, business, collaboration,


By Keith Loria

Church design firm Live Design Group reports that it has welcomed seasoned architect Dave Benham to its Birmingham, Ala.-based practice.

“Dave has over 20 years of experience in designing churches and served as the studio leader at a large successful firm. He brings years of experience to our already exceptional team,” says Aubrey Garrison, president of Live Design Group. “He prefers the small-firm culture, which is very important to us, and he has an incredible reputation and strong relationships with churches throughout the U.S.”

When Benham and Garrison first talked about the possibility, Benham knew it seemed like a great fit – a smaller firm with a heart for ministry, and says he looks forward to serving the church by helping churches realize their dreams of facilities that bring people closer to the Lord.

“For some time, I’ve been wanting to get back to my roots – to a smaller firm that has a heart for the church,” Benham says. “Having ‘competed’ against Live Design for many years, I knew about them and had admired their work.”

Trends in practice

Garrison notes that the “off campus small group” concept has changed church facilities for some time now and without the need for adult education space, churches are creating more places for connections to occur.

“Commons spaces are larger and more versatile with seating groups, adjacent ‘living room’ environments and cafes are standard in most cases,” she says. “Multi-campus churches are now common place, and churches are now looking at how they can apply a unique twist to the remote venues.”

For instance, one Mississippi church is locating 300-seat video venues in small towns across the southern half of the state.

“This smaller video venue concept intrigues us. After designing two, we are evolving the design into a prototype concept,” Garrison says. “The church desires a consistent brand and image and that is currently being designed into each different location. We are working closely with the church to develop this prototype and continue to grow their impact in southern Mississippi.”

One trend Benham’s noticed since joining Live Design Group is an emphasis on the church’s brand image.

“Everything from the exterior finishes and details, to the interior colors and materials, are all a part of creating environments that reflect the church’s look and brand."

—Dave Benham, Architect, Live Design Group, Birmingham, AL

“Everything from the exterior finishes and details, to the interior colors and materials, are all a part of creating environments that reflect the church’s look and brand,” he says.

“Barna recently discussed the term 'Modularity,' on how Millennials look at life and how it applies to church. It refers to things being able to be pulled apart and reassembled in a different way for a different purpose,” Benham notes. “I think that check-in stations, welcome areas and even auditorium staging should be flexible so it can adapt to changing needs.”

Key projects

Projects under construction currently include a new 2,000-seat worship center and commons for Life Church Memphis at its Collierville Campus for Pastors John and Leslie Siebeling, as well as a satellite campus for Venture Church in south Mississippi for Pastor Jeff Clark.

Projects in design and production include a new 1,700-seat worship center and renovations to their existing building for Pastor Jason Delgado in Columbus, Mo., and a satellite campus for Rock City Church in Columbus, Ohio, for Pastor Chad Fisher.

“Each church project has its own unique features and personality, and our approach results in projects that reflect the church – not the architect,” Garrison says. “At Celebration Church in Jacksonville, Fla., the pastor desired an arena-style worship space with the latest surround sound AV system, which resulted in one of the most energy-filled spaces we have designed.”

Aubrey Garrison III, president of Live Design Group (center) joins in discussion with firm architect Craig Krawczyk (left) and their new hire, Dave Benham (right).

Community of Faith Church outside Houston, Texas, wanted an expandable worship room to initially seat approximately 2,700 with expandable capabilities to over 4,000.

“Through advancements in acoustic technology and an innovative approach to expansion, we developed a unique solution that expands the worship center from behind the stage,” Garrison says. “The wall at the back of the initial stage location was temporary, allowing for more seats to be wrapped around the sides, the wall removed, and the stage moved back -- creating a larger room.”

In working with worship facilities, Garrison feels Live Design’s core promises of "Design Responsibility" and "Making Room for Input" sets it apart from others. Making room for input, he explains, means everyone is a contributor. There’s quicker buy-in from key stakeholders, and the designs are more precise the first time so there’s less back and forth on revisions. This approach gets a church to the fundraising phase in less time, and with a design they were part of creating.

“Inviting them to participate in the design process requires a different mindset than you find in the traditional design process,” Garrison notes. “There can be no ego associated with the creation of the project’s concept; instead, all options are considered before final decisions made. Throughout my career, I have always believed it’s the church’s vision and their building, so why wouldn’t the church’s vision team be a part of creating the design from the beginning?”





Learn more about the companies in this story:

Live Design Group



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