SCHEMATIC DESIGN – MASTER PLANNING
How many times have you heard of a Lending Institute receiving a phone call from a church looking for funds for their newly designed facility that seats 1000 people in the sanctuary when their average attendance is less than 250? Or hear of a church that has spent a bequest to install an elevator only to find out a few years later that the only direction their property will allow a new education wing to be built is right through that elevator; Or that a church had a design build firm add on a wood frame education wing to their masonry and steel structure drastically limiting the ability for that church building to expand in the future without serious expense due to this reduction of building type; Or meet with a church looking to take the next step in facility expansion that requires a complete alteration or reconfiguration of portions of the building they just built a few years earlier.
Too many times I am called in after the fact, after, a church with good intentions hasspent significant church funds to “fix the problem” without any investigation or consideration for the big picture. Too many times I see churches and their leaders make uninformed decisions that adversely affect the longevity and integrity of their church facilities. Every time I am saddened when I meet with them and have to explain what has ultimately caused the predicament they are currently facing.
When looking at church facilities, one should always look at the possibility of the church’s future on that site. How will the church expand; where would they place future parking; where is the main entrance; where will they put all the possible staff they might hire? The purpose of a properly prepared schematic design is to design a solution to meet the immediate facility needs of the congregation. The purpose of a properly prepared Master Plan is to plan for the future so that the facility can enhance the ministry and growth of the congregation. A Master Plan should be designed to meet not only the immediate facility needs but also potential future ministry needs. The major criteria in determining a Master Plan are: space relationships and functions, circulation patterns, handicapped accessibility, aesthetic, contextual, historical concerns, and energy conservation. By fully developing the potential, you can then set phasing strategies to allow an orderly, financially feasible development of the church facility. (See our article, “Church Space Relationships – General Model”)
My goal when designing a Master Plan for a church is to provide a design that allows for the easy expansion of the church facility based on their prioritization of needs and the financial resources of that church. I also strive to provide a design that will allow for the ease of circulation and interaction of the congregants throughout the facility. My philosophy is that the program generates the use of the building and thus the design, so that none of our designs are alike, since no two churches and their needs and concerns are identical. We try to get the fullest participation of the church in the early design process so that the result is their design of their property, not just our design of their property. This has proved to be a highly successful approach because the church feels ownership in both the process and the final design.
John W.G. Rosecrans, AIA is the Owner and President of DIMENSIONAL DYNAMICS, Architects and Planners, Inc. located at 455 Old Baltimore Pike, Chadds Ford, PA 19317. phone: 610.388.0755 fax 610.388.2761 email: firstname.lastname@example.org webpage: www.dimdyn.com