Posted in projects
on February 27, 2014 10:33 pm EST
Up for Adaptation
Rock Bridge Community Church in Dalton, Ga., relocated several ministry functions to a vacant commercial building near the church’s downtown campus. Shown here, the downtown café. Image courtesy of Cogun.
For the worship space specifically, unobstructed open space is needed, and in most commercial buildings, large space and structural columns are not independent variables.
A standout theme in Christendom is taking what's cast aside, empty and deemed useless, and filling it with purpose. Choosing adaptive reuse for ministry space approaches the idyllic in terms of stewardship and metaphor. However, as an architect, builder or engineer tasked with guiding a church to the best solutions for their ministry, many factors must be considered, all stemming from the church’s size, goals and worship style, and the character of the building being adapted.
Designer asked Dave Benham, principal with the Greenville, S. C., office of LS3P Architects; Jim Couchenour, vice president of marketing for Cogun Inc., builders in North Lima, Ohio; and Ronald Geyer, founder of Good City Architects in Greenville, S.C., about the differences, challenges and benefits that come with applying adaptive reuse to ministry facilities. Church vs. other adaptive reuse applications
Adaptive reuse has been around for some time—downtown loft apartments converted from law offices, old firehouses turned into trendy coffee shops and restaurants, a city jail turned advertising agency. Church adaptive reuse is beholden to most of the same principles of its commercial and residential counterparts, as well as a few more. Space
“Church adaptive reuse is indeed a unique animal,” says Benham. “While repurposing a building for a new use has its challenges in all occupancies, the need for larger, open spaces is much more difficult in a church layout than in commercial or residential.”
For the worship space specifically, unobstructed open space is needed, and in most commercial buildings, large space and structural columns are not independent variables. “Often, there is a need to remove columns to achieve the desired layout, but it’s still not optimal. The design of the space is influenced by existing column spacing, and typically, we simply attempt to conceal as many within the new walls as possible,” says Benham.
This practice was applied at Christ Church of the Carolinas in Columbia, S.C., an LS3P project that adapted the church from an abandoned warehouse.
On the other hand, Geyer notes that structural columns have long been a part of church architecture, even as decorative elements in traditional spaces. “Seating and aisles are flexible, and structure, thoughtfully incorporated, is [inexpensive] decoration,” he says.
Outside of the auditorium, sheer square footage and layout must be considered for the sake of the ministry’s programs, especially children and students, as well as auxiliary gathering spaces, restrooms and kitchens.
“Student and children’s spaces need be to relatively close to the main auditorium, but have enough separation for sound isolation,” says Couchenour.
Kids’ ministry space at Rock Bridge Community Church, Dalton, GA. Image courtesy of Cogun.
One particular Cogun adaptive reuse project, Rock Bridge Community Church in Dalton, Ga., relocated several ministry functions to a vacant commercial building near the church’s downtown campus. It includes overflow worship, a café, volunteer headquarters and birth through 6th grade classrooms.
“The key is to assemble the puzzle of spaces in a way that encourages good flow and attempts to eliminate the ‘lost’ factor, especially for first-time guests,” adds Benham.