A phased, adaptive re-use church project maintains design consistency and incorporates technology throughout.
Watermark's new Phase III, as well as Phases I & II, focus on a 20,000-square-foot “town square” used for community gatherings, social events, kids’ carnivals, and even small trade shows. Images courtesy of Omniplan.
For their first six years together, the members of Watermark Community Church gathered first in each other’s living rooms, and then, as membership grew, in hotel ballrooms and high school auditoriums. The church’s continued growth mandated the need for a permanent home, which in 2003, Watermark’s leadership found in the form of a 13-acre plot of land next to Interstate 635 in Dallas. Thus began a three-phase design and construction effort that would produce two auditoriums, a chapel, youth and children’s facilities, a multipurpose space, numerous classrooms, and a multitude of gathering spaces.
Over the course of more than 10 years, Watermark’s leadership worked with Omniplan, a local architectural firm, as well as Idibri, an Addison, Texas-based consultancy focusing on acoustics, theatrical design, and audio, video, and lighting, to bring this project to fruition. The design of the master plan and the architecture was a collaborative effort between the church itself, the architect, and the AVL team. Sustainability Redefined
Watermark’s newly purchased site housed an eight-story, 150,000-square-foot office tower that the church originally believed it would tear down in favor of building entirely new facilities from the ground up. But Scott Hall, AIA, principal and director of design at Omniplan, recounts that it was during master planning that this decision was reversed. “We started studying the value, the virtues, and the stewardship of doing that and proved that you could get a lot more bang for your buck if you kept that structure and allocated program space that could go into a tower,” he explains. “It was a little bit of a risk—they didn’t quite know what a church would look like in an eight-story office building.” Once the firm began programming the spaces, however, it proved that utilizing the existing building would, indeed, work very well. Because it’s an urban site, building adequate parking space would normally be a challenge, however, Watermark addressed this through reciprocal agreements with its commercial neighbors: on Sundays, and during special events, the church has access to its neighbors’ parking, and their neighbors’ patrons may park at Watermark when necessary.
The first phase of the project focused on the office tower, transforming it into a facility that could accommodate preschoolers, youth ministries, and meeting spaces for the adult members of Watermark’s congregation. Phase II centered on the construction of a building that would house a 2,100-seat auditorium, a lobby, a coffee shop, as well as a number of gathering spaces—all linked to the tower via a sky bridge. The auditorium was to serve as an interim worship space, allowing the church’s members to congregate on their new property rather than continuing to meet in a high school. As such, Omniplan’s design accounted for the fact that this 65,000-square-foot space would eventually house children’s education facilities on a permanent basis.
A once interim worship space is now a permanent children's space that includes a 15-room nursery and adaptable multipurpose space.
Hall explains that the church considered a number of temporary structural solutions, such as tents and metal buildings, to house this interim worship space, “[but] they didn’t feel like that was good stewardship,” he says. Instead Omniplan designed a tilt-up concrete panel structure, which proved more cost-effective and, of course, solid. It was also designed and built with its future programming in mind: “We built the interim worship building with the intent that at some point in the future it was going to be converted to a children’s building, and so we put a parallel design effort into designing the children’s building while we were designing the [interim] auditorium.”
Very little would be required for this transformation, other than the insertion of a second floor without having to raise the roof or modify the structure. The materials for Phase II construction were all regionally supplied, or they were products comprised of significantly recycled content. In addition to the tilt-wall concrete structure with steel framing, the building is outfitted with Tectum ceiling panels, Glu-Lam beams, Low-E glazing, and high-efficiency mechanical systems.
“We oriented the building toward the greenbelt so that the building itself could shelter the outdoor activities from the freeway.”
—Scott Hall, AIA, Principal & Director of Design, Omniplan, Dallas, TX
Phase III of Omniplan’s master plan incorporated the construction of a 3,500-seat worship center, the transformation of the interim worship space into a permanent children’s facility, as well as the design and construction of a 500-seat multipurpose space (known as “The Loft”), and a 350-seat chapel on the upper level.
The Loft, chapel, main worship space, and all multipurpose spaces are designed to be technologically similar to accommodate volunteers who might shift from one space to another. Chapel image courtesy of Peter Calvin.
All of these facilities, as well as those modified and constructed during Phases I and II, focus on a 20,000-square-foot “town square” that is used for community gatherings, social events, kids’ carnivals, and even small trade shows. The retrofitted children’s center features 60 classrooms outfitted with adjustable partitions, giving the church some added flexibility depending on how large the classes are. This space also houses a 15-room nursery, as well as an adaptable multipurpose space on the building’s second level, which Watermark uses for speaking events, social activities, and worship.
In the main worship center, video projection plays a primary role, extending the color palette on the platform onto the sidewalls to create mood.