All of the well designed spaces I visit have ONE essential element in common, they all flow well.
Getting from one place to the next is easy and seamless. There are no traffic jams, bottlenecks or pinch points that impede movement. A recent trip to Costco, the mega retail store, actually had me thinking about church design and in particular traffic flow. The ginormous warehouse offers wide aisles, a structured and predictable layout and good signage.
As I meandered through the aisles I found myself surround by 100s of other shoppers, yet I never felt crowded.
When I wanted to find the meat area, it was as simple as looking up and locating the sign and heading in the right direction. Everything seemed clearly laid out and logical.
I do realize that an open ginormous warehouse is a lot easier place to set up for generous traffic flow and clear signage than a typical church building is. After all, with its open concept all you have to do is put the signs up high and make the font large enough to read from a distance.
In the typical church building you have 2 or 3 building additions that probably were constructed in different decades and were designed to meet the needs of that era. So the challenge remains as to how to get people to flow comfortably thru your facility.
There are two simple things that have with traffic flow and make the biggest impact.
Minimize choke points and Maximize highway areas.
Before we dive deeper into those items the first thing that has to happen is that you need to access your current situation.
Currently, I am working on a project that is a residential housing unit for men who are in transition or trapped in addiction.
We are renovating an old house to accommodate 8-12 men to live in community together. The biggest challenge right now is the kitchen area. How can you facilitate that many people in a standard kitchen? The two biggest things we are doing is trying to minimize choke points and to maximize high traffic areas.
To accomplish this we completely opened up the kitchen center area by removing an island that was blocking the natural traffic flow. We also knocked out a wall so that people could easily move from the kitchen area to the dining area. The coffee maker is a high traffic area in the morning so we are building a coffee station in the corner of the dining area, to keep congestion out of the kitchen area.
Also, the refrigerators are high traffic areas, so we are locating them in the entryway right next to the kitchen. By keeping these high traffic and high use items out of the kitchen we were able to better accommodate a large number of people in a smaller traditional kitchen area.
In your facility what are your choke points?
Is it the coffee station? The childrens check in area? The information center? Look around and see what is holding people up and move those activities to other areas to clear up the high traffic areas.
Often it can really be as simple as moving an activity or any barrier like furniture out of the way, that will help bring relief to traffic flow problems that you are experiencing.
What traffic flow situations has your church creatively solved?