When considering architects for a church building project, should prior church design experience be the deciding factor? Architects are trained to design any kind of building; they are not trained to specifically design churches, schools, retail stores or commercial buildings. They are trained to seek a solution for any client's problem.
An architect's capabilities with particular projects are enhanced by experience, however, in this case with churches. They typically go through a trial-and-error learning process during their first few projects and use the knowledge gained on future projects. The process at a certain point becomes streamlined. Experience contributes to the architect's ability to assemble the right team of consultantssuch as the use of a liturgical design consultant or an audio, video and lighting consultant. A knowledgeable architect has the ability to have comprehensive discussions with those consultants and be a good facilitator. A seasoned church architect [on the other hand] understands the importance of a church's DNA and how vision leads the building project.
[Although it is not necessarily] always advantageous for a church to work with an architect with a large amount of church design experience. Architects with limited church design experience are forced into a discovery phase where they listen, ask questions and learn from the church building committee. They attend meetings with no preconceived notions and flexible opinions on what is best for the design. There is a danger that the design can become too formula-driven based on an experienced architect's design paradigm, rather than identifying and solving the church's true problem.