Posted in projects on February 27, 2014 8:27 pm EST

Case Study: The Making of a Spiritual Oasis

First Baptist Church Dallas delivers a downtown community gathering destination.

This is not just any fountain, and it has fast become a landmark meeting spot in the city. Featuring a cross tower and separate baptism pool, its pedestal stands 68-feet high to the top of the cross. Every 15 minutes, passersby may enjoy a water “show,” complete with originally scripted music.


 

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TAGS: historical buildings, urban development,

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By Carolyn Heinze

It sounded the way it sounds when Hollywood stages Armageddon. And anyone in downtown Dallas who wasn’t aware of what was really happening that morning might have thought that’s what it was. Then there was the dust, a menacing, lingering cloud of it, blocking out an otherwise bright, sunny sky. When it finally began to lift, underneath was all that debris. Four once-tallish buildings were much less than a story high. In fact, if it weren’t for the mounds of glass and concrete and metal and wood blanketing the ground, you could say that they were completely flat.

The mess was intentional, and not a mess at all when you consider how carefully calculated and planned out and contingency-planned it was. The implosion of those four buildings was the end of something, yes, but for those who once inhabited them it was also the creation of a new beginning—one that would honor their past and take them into the future.

"You must have a plan implemented and maps drawn, and issue this information so the church knows and the school knows when you’re going to be shutting down roads…. ”

—Scott Blasing, Vice President of Pre-Construction, Manhattan Construction Co., Dallas

Master planning on a grand scale

It was Saturday, October 30, 2010, when the First Baptist Church of Dallas treated the city center to that impressive sonic boom, but the conceptualization of its future home started several years before. For most of its 145-year history, the church congregated on this site, which over the years grew to span six city blocks and eight buildings, including its sanctuary. But those buildings—some constructed by the church, some purchased—were old, imposing, uninviting, and well, a little mismatched. Dr. Jeffress, the church’s executive pastor, wanted to create a “spiritual oasis” that would not only serve its existing inhabitants, but that would also invite the community in.

“We wanted to create a unified facility that was, first of all, visitor friendly, and also that showed the city the vitality of the church,” Jeffress recounts. This is the reason behind the extensive use of glass throughout the new campus, enabling an exchange between the interior and exterior: whereas before it was impossible for the public to know what was going inside FBC Dallas, now they have a front-row view as they are passing by, or lounging in the one-acre green space that the church built, or taking photos of the fountain out front.

(A word about the fountain: it’s not just any fountain, and has fast become a landmark meeting spot in the city. Featuring a cross tower and separate baptism pool, its pedestal stands 68-feet high to the top of the cross. Every 15 minutes, passersby may enjoy a water “show,” complete with originally scripted music.)

The creation of a new campus didn’t mean that First Baptist Dallas had any intention of leaving downtown and heading for the suburbs. “We have a 145-year history of being in downtown Dallas, and we believe that downtown is certainly one of, if not the, fastest-growing metropolis in the United States,” Jeffress explains. “We believe that there needs to be a strong witness for Christ in the center of the city.”  continued >>

 

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