Designing a Church Lobby for Connection
The vastness of a church lobby often creates space that is intimidating, overwhelming, and suffocates any sense of community.
Creating places where people naturally connect is paramount to creating Third Place space, space universally sought these days. In his book, The Search to Belong, Joe Myers states, “Most [church] atriums were built to act as people movers. They do not promote the space for people to connect in.”
At West Side Church in Springfield, Illinois, Aspen Group was challenged with the task of turning an existing 15,000 square foot “People Mover” into a place where people of all ages connect on different levels. For inspiration, the design team explored spaces that most people visit on a regular basis, spaces such as restaurants, coffee houses, and bars. What we found was not surprising—these spaces do community pretty well.
With these spaces in mind, our design team went to work on creating a new architectural language for West Side. The final design included introducing various size columns for scale, one-step platforms to give a sense of being “on a different level” with the person only a few feet away, and physical barriers that were not visual barriers. In this case, glass-less windows create a visual buffer between people in conversation, and they maintain the intended traffic flow and visual way-finding.
West Side Christian Church has a powerful ministry that is aligned well with the culture and leadership of the church. The goal with this project was to bring their facilities into alignment to enhance their ministry even further—a place where people love to hang out, strike up meaningful conversations on a regular basis, and ultimately a place where lives are changed.
Derek DeGroot is Director of Design and Integrated Services (Chicago) for Aspen Group.
About Derek DeGroot
Derek DeGroot is Vice President of Design and Integrated Services for Aspen Group. After graduating from University of Illinois-Chicago’s architecture program, Derek began his career in residential design. At the same time, his church was embarking on a building project. Derek quickly realized that churches needed to find a better way to build. Soon after, he discovered and joined Aspen Group in 2007.