I sat down for lunch with a table of people I hadn’t met, except by phone. They looked skeptical. We made introductions, I dropped a couple names and tried to smile with that fragile balance of subtle ambition and professional competence that I’ve been nurturing over the past three years. It hasn’t always been a successful pose, but I keep practicing.
This introduction was with a church considering a new sanctuary and campus, the meeting was thanks to a good friend who attends the small congregation.
Like my practiced smile, architecture has this mixed purpose of firmness, commodity, and delight. It’s easy to err in any of these facets, building too heavy, or too cheap, or absent of delight. With churches, these points are entirely heightened, and each one becomes a point for decision, for doctrine, and for committees.
In the wave of church plants and storefront churches, “firmness” can be completely outside the vision statement. These churches plan to grow out of their first construction project on day one, or they aim for survival first and a plan to plan later, or they believe that the nature of a church is in fact to wander, without the burdens of mortgages and property maintenance.
Commodity is the easiest cup to tip in one direction or the other. Most churches will concede that building will cost money, but how much should it cost? If you boil a congregation strictly down to function, your primary purposes for building become volume and air-conditioning. If you plan to build big anyway, warehouses can be assembled at warehouse prices. However, delight is almost certainly not a part of the program.
As I sat down to meet with this church, the first comment I heard, from the most skeptical face in the room, was, “I’m not sure if you are familiar with our church. We don’t want a Butler Building.” This may be the best introduction I’ve ever heard, and it’s a relationship I’m absolutely eager to build.
Andy Osterlund AIA | LEED AP
Andrew Osterlund, Architect, PLLC
GREEN | URBAN | SMART ARCHITECTURE
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