Posted in projects on December 29, 2014 8:27 pm EST

Case Study: Night Light

Southland Christian Church repurposes a shopping center and introduces people to the building’s new life and purpose—a beacon even in the night.

"The building needed to be 'iconic' and 'transparent'...because we’re not trying to reach the churched; we’re trying to reach the unchurched.” --Jim Cox, Campus Operations Director, Southland Christian Church, Lexington, KY  /  Launch gallery (in new window)











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TAGS: adaptive reuse, architectural lighting,


By Carolyn Heinze

It’s a busy Tuesday morning and Rick Ekhoff is discussing his philosophy on how design excellence applies to architecture. If a school building succeeds in inspiring students to learn, that’s design excellence. If corporate offices motivate their occupants and provide a more productive environment, that’s design excellence. But how does this work when a client asks you to design a church that doesn’t look like a traditional church?

If your client’s goal is to build a facility that will attract people who haven’t considered going to church before, there’s potential for design excellence there, too.

“There is all kinds of abstract imagery throughout the building. Some of it we haven’t shared with the church..., because it is meant to be interpreted differently by each individual.” Rick Ekhoff, AIA, LEED AP, Design Principal, EOP Architects, Lexington, KY

Ekhoff, AIA, LEED AP, design principal at EOP Architects in Lexington, Ky., admits that when Southland Christian Church asked his firm to submit a design proposal for an adaptive reuse project that would eventually become its Richmond Road campus, he thought it was a long shot: EOP had never designed a church before. What’s more, the proposal that he and his team submitted went against the guidelines that the church had set out. In the end, this turned out to be precisely why Southland hired the firm (“You’ve got to be smart enough to know when somebody’s got a better idea than you do,” is how church elder Craig Avery puts it), giving birth to a collaboration that would not only make a powerful statement to the church’s congregation, but to the community of Lexington.

“They wanted a building that reflected the personality of the church, but also spoke to the people who went by it so that those who weren’t familiar with the church itself would be drawn to it, and the building would play a role in that,” Ekhoff says.

Against the grain

In their initial conversations with EOP, Jim Cox, campus operations director at Southland, relates that “iconic” and “transparent” were two words that were used to describe the church’s goals for the building. “We felt that this was such a big deal, because we’re not trying to reach the churched; we’re trying to reach the unchurched,” he explains. The building needed to attract attention.

“… we’ve had people come in and say, ‘What’s going on here?’ It’s been really cool to see that happen.”

—Craig Avery, Civil Engineer, Church Elder, Southland Christian Church, Lexington, KY

Both Southland and EOP knew that the project would pique interest in the community—if only because the existing building had been, if not a disaster zone, then at least an eyesore for over a decade. Originally a mid-sized shopping center housing the two-story department store Dillard’s, this adaptive reuse project would involve renovations spanning 84,000 square feet, as well as the construction of a 49,000-square-foot addition. Originally, the church leadership envisioned the old Dillard’s being transformed into a worship center, and this is where EOP went against Southland’s original Request for Proposal (RFP).  continued >>





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