The recession has cut big holes in the pockets of most people. In turn, the offerings made by the faithful to their churches have also dwindled. While the unemployment rate was above 10%, many worship facility leaders and pastors were caught with large building projects that could no longer be funded.
These current experiences will undoubtedly influence the way churches of the future are designed. For instance, following the Great Depression, two world wars, the Holocaust and the use of nuclear weapons, church leaders were inspired by design that embraced the modern world, moving away from beauty and tradition.
Kevin Callahan, principal of Callahan Studios based in Scottsdale, Ariz., believes that post recession architecture will spawn a trend away from the big-box assembly hall-type buildings and back to more intimate spaces like Grace Community Church just outside Indianapolis. Callahan designed Grace as a facility that would blend design and technology to create a space for participation, connectedness and intimacy in worship.
“Our specialty is in non-profit assembly spaces, churches and arts organizations, which have been extremely hard hit in the recession,” says Callahan. “Personally, I think it’s the best thing that ever happened to the church because it really allows people to stop this bizarre trajectory the church is on-creating what I would refer to as concert hall churches.”
The problem with such impersonal, sweeping spaces that could as easily accommodate a performing arts center as a worship facility, is “uniformity instead of unity.”
“The resulting concert hall body language is just sit back, relax and enjoy the show,” maintains Callahan.
Jerry Halcomb, founder and CEO of Dallas-based HH Architects, holds a somewhat different view. “Many churches have renovated or recreated retail facilities such as retail stores, car dealerships, etc.,” he says. “Churches are becoming even more 24/7 places, and people demand facilities designed for today.”
Not only will design, post recession, become more functional and multi-purpose, Halcomb believes that trends will also include even more multi-campus churches, satellite churches, church relocations, as well as better facilities for fellowship and “third place” facilities such as coffee shops.
Aubrey Garrison III, principal with The Garrison Barrett Group based in Birmingham, Ala., says his firm designs more contemporary churches that prefer putting more money into production spending, such as lighting, sound and acoustics than the exterior aesthetics. “For our clients, it’s not so much what the building looks like as it is about what happens inside it,” says Garrison. “Simpler, less opulent buildings that afford the most volume for the least investment is the trend.”
[Editor’s Note: For a full report entitled “Selecting an Architect in the Choppy Waters of 2010,” by Sibley Fleming, see the January/February 2010 issue of Worship Facilities Magazine.]