In many ways Churches are very unique buildings and they need to be designed to meet a myriad of functions. Take a fresh look at your building, or an eyes-wide-open view of one that you are planning. Will it inspire or meet at mediocrity?
Gary Zandstra · April 17, 2018
They need to be designed to meet a myriad of functions. From private one on one counseling, to corporate worship, a church building has many activities that take place. Churches are also unique in that there are a plethora of stakeholders as well. From the staff to the constituents, many people are invested in both being financially tied to the building as well as users of the space.
Back when I was in college and pursuing a business degree, facilities management was a new discipline being offered. I took of a number of facilities classes as I was intrigued by how buildings and space influence and support business in tangible and intangible ways. I eventually decided on getting my general business degree (this was after achieving my broadcasting degree) but my intrigue and love for facilities would always be somehow interwoven through my career.
In my days as a technical director at a mega church, that intersection was primarily on Sunday mornings as I made use of AVL (audio/video/lighting) systems to help support and enhance worship. As I moved on to AVL system design and sales I learned how to integrate these systems in what seemed like a constant battle between form and function. Today as I work in business development for a design build firm in essence my world revolves around buildings.
As I look at the uniqueness of a church building 5 important things come to mind.
I remember it like it was yesterday sitting in a facilities class in college with the professor going over a handout/spreadsheet (computer spreadsheets were new and there were no projectors in the classroom, just whiteboards) on how to determine what was needed for an office space. To this day I have a love hate relationship with spreadsheets. They provide great data but I believe can be overused to manipulate that data to get the outcome you desire.
The professor emphatically repeated throughout his lecture/rant that form follows function. The phrase “form follows function” according to Wikipedia is attributed to Louis Sullivan. I believe that Sullivan’s was conveying the idea “form follows function”, as opposed to “form follows precedent”. In other words what the building is going to be used for, in Sullivan’s case a skyscraper, required a different form than what was being currently used in construction.
However, what I took my professors lecture/rant to mean was, who cares what it looks like as long as it is efficient. I have seen many times, where an architect will have an inspired vision and a desire to create beauty in his design, only to have a committee shoot his idea down calling it too grand, even ostentatious. The committee would always seem to come back to function alone as the driving factor. Often a beautiful design was squelched even before price or feasibility came into the equation.