Saturday, September 4, 2010
The Changing Face of Church Architecture
Then in the 1990s the move was one to add on space. When they ended up with is a fellowship hall and large kitchen. Around it were a couple of storage closets, a small Pastor's Office, two nice restrooms, and more entry area space (oh, and, yes, air conditioning). What had changed were spaces that were not even considered important in the 1950s -- larger, handicapped restrooms and fellowship space.
When the parish I serve remodeled and added on 20,000 square feet (2001), the wants of the people were definitely different -- large, wide, well lit hallways and an abundance of expansive restrooms, and lots and lots of entry area and narthex space to gather. Thirty years before the narrow, dark halls and outdated restrooms were not considered a problem but now they were seen as a definite problem.
What has changed in the Church is our desire for creature comforts (modern, clean, well appointed restrooms) and gathering space (from regular fellowship halls to the wide halls in which people can gather and talk and laugh and get to know each other). I wonder if the reasons for these changes have to do with the fragmentation of society, the separation of folks from the roots and support system of extended family, and the increasingly isolated feeling people have. Whatever the reasons, these changes have certainly made an impact upon the church buildings across America.
Most folks are no longer content with cramped or outdated restrooms, with insufficient or distant parking, or with cramped public areas. What was once the press to turn buildings into handicap access facilities (complete with elevators) has become a drive to find a place for cappuccino machines, tall tables and stools, video screens, and dedicated youth space that mirrors modern day care facilities or teen hang outs (yes I know that word is out of date).
What has not changed is the desire for people outside the Church to find sacred space in religious facilities. Lifeway did a survey several years and found that those outside the Church thought that sacred space that did not mirror the mall or movie theater complex was a definite positive and a high expectation of church buildings. Interesting that the trends (even among Lutherans) is to make sacred space generic instead of distinctly sacred (and, I might add, traditional)...
So what does this all mean? You tell me... but changes in architecture and buildings are not unimportant... quite often they betray attitudes about the faith and the Church that are not so obvious in other places...