New Trends Emerging in Church Construction

Article excerpt

They are often varied in design and function - Oklahoma City's many religious buildings. Throughout the city, small chapels front intersections and church spires reach into the sky.
Church architects say such traditional building designs are in no danger of disappearing. But while particular denominations and religions may dictate each building's style, some architects say new, more functional building designs have emerged that may reflect an expanding role of religious institutions.
"We're seeing more educational facilities, more community-center-like activities becoming a part of most contemporary churches," said Nick Harm, an associate professor with the University of Oklahoma's College of Architecture.
"Maybe we're getting away from such a heavily symbolic role in the architectural configuration of churches and getting into more of a directly functional purpose."
Metro architects who design church buildings say recent construction shows some trends in church design emerging.
Traditional cathedral styles and elongated sanctuaries are still popular. More churches, however, are emerging with fan-shaped or round sanctuaries that bring the churchgoers closer to the pulpit.
Meanwhile, more recently constructed churches have added multimedia features, family- life centers and attached classrooms, and multi-use spaces to accommodate more than just a weekly service. The designs are evident in some of Oklahoma City's newer church buildings, including the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Edmond, St. Elijah Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church and Crossings Community Church, both in Oklahoma City.
Steve Von Tungeln, a principal with Architectural Design Group in Oklahoma City, said recent construction shows a desire by churches to be functional and also accommodate future growth.
"There is an emphasis on more family life centers, more community-related facilities that allow churches to hold events," Tungeln said.
At Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Oklahoma City, ADG worked to restore the interior of the church sanctuary built in 1923. In a sign of new demands on the church, the congregation added a community center, known as the Connor Center, which features a 100-seat chapel, classrooms, a conference center, choir room, nursery and kitchen.
At Crossings Community Church, which opened in September 1999 at 14600 N. Portland Ave. in Oklahoma City, the church built a 3,500-seat sanctuary. A master plan for the 78-acre complex includes classrooms and offices but also a gym, a 3,600-square-foot theater and sports fields.
"It seems like every facility that we do nowadays ... is focused on keeping the young ones there, and to provide more facilities that allow youth programs and community outreach," Tungeln said. …