Project submitted for 2011 Solomon Awards, category Church Design Expansion, 1-800 seats.
Austin, Texas-based Austin Ridge Bible Church (ARBC) has experienced an average of almost 20% attendance growth over the past 5 years. After increasing seating capacity and adding a third service to its Sunday schedule, the options for additional worship capacity meant building additional space to accommodate more people.
ARBC staff says it considered constructing a new, larger worship center that would double its capacity, but after counting the costs and the impact on church culture the church felt that God was calling them in a different direction. Instead of constructing a bigger worship center or stretching its pastoral staff thinner with added service times, Austin Ridge leadership made the decision to construct a new, smaller Worship Venue and move toward a multi-site church model.
This opportunity aligned with the church’s desire to keep worship environments intimate. When ARBC’s architect had laid out the High School and Middle School Buildings in the site master plan, they were each designed to double in size at some point the future. It was this pair of expandable buildings that gave the church the opportunity to grow and launch a multi-site worship service on its own campus. The former High School Building was expanded to become a new worship venue, and the former Middle School Building was expanded to also accommodate the high school ministry. The natural topography of the site allowed the expansion of the new worship venue to capture space below grade for a new nursery level.
The challenging task was to utilize economical pre-engineered metal building structures in a creative way—to make an architecture that has a very utilitarian skeleton—but one that becomes more than the sum of the parts through the ways the buildings are finished, how they interact with each other, and with the natural landscape of the site. The ability to divide the youth spaces in half with large coiling doors or use each as a continuous light-filled venue, plus the ability to open the buildings up to the courtyard, allows the spaces to be used in engaging, flexible, and energetic ways.
A New and Active Aesthetic
A refined, contemporary, rural aesthetic marries traditional limestone elements from the existing church building to a new vocabulary of metal siding, wood slats, and large bays of glass. Each building welcomes visitors with a long porch to shelter against the elements. The site capitalizes on beautiful views of the Texas Hill Country.
In addition, ARBC’s buildings are situated atop a ridge overlooking a wooded valley and creek. A series of trail systems have been developed so that church members and neighbors can experience the natural beauty of the church’s extensive park-like property. Members of the community also have access to three ball fields, hiking and biking trails, and a disk golf course that winds through the tree-covered hillsides.
With technology upgrades, the new worship venue will function as a broadcast studio, streaming live teaching in HD to the existing Phase One Auditorium. The church’s future plans include streaming to multiple campuses across the city of Austin.