Let's all take a good hard look at our lobbies.
Chris Strasser, Assoc. AIA
Risepointe, Design Director
Can we all admit that churches are funny…and I don’t mean funny like ‘lol’ or bad kids ministry murals from the 90’s - I mean like really, we are all sorts of weird. We have recently come across some headless Jesus sculptures, a lobby that looks like it borrowed the plants from Jurassic Park, and a private car lift for a senior pastor. What is our proclivity to allow ourselves to endure this blatant cultural irrelevance. We are not immune to design ridicule, and I mean no shame towards our friends. Our own Risepointe office looks like the backside of the Mad Men tv show set - we have tried to dial down the faux laminated walnut paneling and as long as you don’t look at the ceiling too long you won’t notice the ceiling tiles have not been changed out in 50 years.
We often make the joke when meeting new churches that we (Risepointe) could accidentally knock over one of the shelves of statues or break the framed image of Moses parting the Red Sea that is right in the middle of the lobby. Just blame the clumsy Architects.
In all seriousness, let's talk about perspective. In architecture and in art, one of the aims of the designer is to focus the intention of the user or audience toward the direction he/she wants them to go. Art/Architecture is about a Journey. A journey to discover your feelings, emotions, past experiences, new feelings - Architecture can be designed as a tool to get you from one place to another or as space itself that reminds you that you are safe or welcomed. Without getting too philosophical or falling down a rabbit hole of architecture design 101 I am trying to distill down once simple approach that provides you as part of a Church family the opportunity to make less apologies to the new family of 4 that just walked in your front door Sunday at 9:45.
For Tim, Sara, and the two pale skinned red haired suspenders wearing kids walking into your lobby for the first time, let's be honest, there is a lot to look at. Ultimately we want them to experience Jesus and to feel the same love and acceptance that we know. We don’t want to apologize for shag carpeted walls, we just want them to focus in on what feels safe and comfortable to them - friendly people, a space that feels relational and almost like their favorite place up the road to grab dinner after the kids soccer game.
So do yourself a favor this weekend - after you share this post with you facility director, go ahead and donate those old paintings, toss the dusty plant forest in your lobby - and walk through your front doors with a timid perspective and challenge yourself to really feel the space from a newcomer's eyes.
We at Risepointe don’t claim to get everything right, and we know that in 30 years if not a lot sooner people will say the same about things we do, however that shouldn’t stop you learning from us as we meet with dozens of churches each year. We try to work with our clients and their building projects through a lens of adaptability and contextuality. Trends move fast and our spaces need to change fast enough to grow with our communities.
Check out our case study below for Context.
Port City Church
Cloverville Michigan, 2020
When we first met the Port City Church team and their facility we were greeted by a large boat (we know it was meant to be ‘the Ark’, but does Tim and Sara??) right in their lobby. About 20 feet away from the boat was a ping pong table and several unlabeled doors leading who knows where. All of this was in a massive lobby with really really low ceilings. My time in our high school youth group in the early 2000’s was instantly brought back.
Cloverville people love their kids and their kids need a place that is safe to play (indoors) and their families need a place to fellowship with other families. We worked with the Port City team to design a refreshed facility with an appropriately scaled lobby - killer kids play area that as you approach the building screams we take care of your kids here.
We intentionally left the interior design palette pretty simple and easy to understand. The space is large and open and from the moment you enter either of the main doors, you understand the facility. We designed the signage and wayfinding to be clear to read from the entrances. The ping pong table has since been retired to the youth storage closet.
Check out this link to read more about Port City Church!
If you would like to learn more about their Ministry, check out Port City Church here.