Posted in practice on November 26, 2014 1:26 pm EST

IFRAA Insights: What’s Your Favorite Place?

An indepth look at the power of case studies in helping clients realize vision. Are you effectively using past projects to gain future business?

Hangar FBC Spartanburg. Images courtesy of LS3P.











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TAGS: architectural design, business, collaboration, ifraa,


By Designer Staff

An interview with Chuck Hultstrand, AIA, Principal & Vice President, LS3P, Greenville, S.C.

Places where people gather for worship can provide inspiration as well as shelter; however, what inspires each group is different. How do we, as designers, get to the heart of our client’s vision, when time is precious, and concepts of faith-based architecture are often difficult for people to articulate?

Enter the “Case Study,” a tried-and-true method in architectural curricula the world over. Chuck Hultstrand, AIA, is an LS3P principal, vice president, and design leader working in the firm’s Greenville, S.C., worship studio. He offers some concrete suggestions for using case studies to engage our clients in the design process.

The sensory experience of standing within a space—acoustics, lighting, texture of materials, warmth, overall atmosphere— opens up new avenues for discussion.

Experience Architecture Together

A very effective use of the case study approach is a field trip to another place of worship. “Nothing brings people together quite like shared experiences,” Hultstrand notes. “Visiting other worship facilities with the building committee is a powerful tool. Even if the facilities you visit are not exactly aligned with their vision, you learn a lot from experiencing the place together.” The sensory experience of standing within a space—acoustics, lighting, texture of materials, warmth, overall atmosphere—opens up new avenues for discussion. “Shared reactions and ideas from these firsthand experiences help the team to establish a stronger relationship for exploring design directions together,”

Hultstrand explains. During a case study visit, the team also builds relationships, develops a deeper understanding of the worship culture, and forms a shared vocabulary for ongoing discussions.

Billy Graham Chapel.

Get Inspired By What Design Can Do

Once a shared vision begins to take shape, a number of concepts will emerge; these may include using light to create a spiritual space, integrating nature, drawing from historic traditions, or reclaiming existing facilities for new uses. At this stage, architects can revisit their Architectural History 101 to investigate the ways in which masters of design have handled such concepts. To see how light can enliven a space, we can look at Eero Saarinen’s stunning chapel at MIT in Boston. To discuss the interplay of nature and architectural form, Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka, Ark., designed by E. Fay Jones, will provide some engaging discussion. In many cases, members of the building committee will bring their own experiences of architecture to the table, from travels to European cathedrals to great sacred spaces around the United States. All of these examples will contribute to a deeper understanding between client and designer.

Step Outside the Box

Case studies need not be limited to the sacred. Some of the best design inspiration comes from unexpected places. Clients often reference places they know and love best, from restaurants to community buildings to public plazas. A recent church client of Hultstrand’s cited the vibrant atmosphere and the urbane materials palette of a local coffee shop as the perfect model for a church gathering space.  continued >>