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Important Sanctuary Design Concepts

Important Sanctuary Design Concepts

Here are some important considerations when building or renovating your church sanctuary. These guidelines will help as you move forward with your project to make sure you’re providing the ideal environment for your congregation.

Ceiling Height
Create as high a ceiling as possible. High ceilings help create the feeling that the space is important, which, in turn, helps instill reverence in the space. High ceilings are also required to create the acoustics needed for music, praying in unison, and projection of the voice. Music requires a high ceiling in order to sound full-bodied and powerful.

Use proportional spacing and balance to create a symmetrical worship environment. The sanctuary, platform, altar area, pulpit, stage, or other focal point of the worship space should be centered to allow most members of the congregation an unobstructed view. When placing seating, it is important to use symmetrical design.

If pews, theater seats, or movable chairs are to be installed, several issues are important to consider prior to installing the seating. First, seating in an auditorium space is governed by federal, state, and local fire and life safety codes. Prior to purchasing seating for your space, understand the requirements for your area. Many states limit the length of pews or rows of theater seats in order to ensure a quick exit in case of an emergency.

Additionally, the minimum width of both center and side aisles is also regulated for the same reason. Keep in mind when planning a seating layout that if your sanctuary space will be used for weddings or funerals, a center aisle that is five feet wide or wider will make walking down the aisle more “picture perfect” for the bride and more dignified for the pallbearers with a casket.

Color Selection
Select colors that create interest and drama in the space. When choosing wall colors, select a palette that is off-white, cream, or another very light tint. Walls that are painted dark colors, although dramatic, absorb light and cause the worship space to appear dark. Dark spaces can prove to be a difficult environment in which to read text or music.

Use fabrics, polished wood, lighting fixtures, artwork, and windows to create drama and give the space the feeling of reverence. The right combination of fabrics, decorative artwork, and accent painting can set the mood for the worship space. Prior to designing, visit as many churches and other worship centers as possible to see what you like. Use rich fabrics to add warmth and color to the room.

You should size artwork so that it fits the space and creates impact. Artwork can be statues, tapestries, sculptures, paintings, crosses, crucifixes, murals, mosaics, and decorative windows.

Decorative Windows
When selecting decorative windows, there are several issues to consider. Not all stained glass windows are the same – in fact, most church windows that are called stained glass aren’t stained glass at all. The term “stained glass” refers to a specific style of decorative glass windows where the artist paints directly on the glass prior to firing the window in a kiln to meld the paint and glass into one creation. Stained glass windows are just one type of decorative church window.  The other major classifications of church windows include art glass, etched glass, and faceted glass windows.

Used as a decorative element to trim walls, frame artwork, or accent ceilings, wood is an excellent, long-lasting material. Make sure it is installed by a skilled woodworker and stained and varnished with top-quality materials.

Just like in a home, furnishings make the room. Select a style of furnishings that creates the style and level of comfort and formality desired for the space. Pews come with many options, from solid wood in a variety of stained colors to white colonial-style ends with carved wooden caps and fully upholstered seats and backs. Pews can be purchased to fit the architectural style of the worship space, no matter whether the space is gothic, colonial, traditional, or contemporary.  When selecting seating, meet with several different manufacturers and compare styles, construction methods, and quality.

When considering pews and altar furnishings, keep in mind that the most visible part of the pew is the seating surface. Whether you select an upholstered seat and back or solid wood, select a pattern or finish that will create the desired effect in your worship space. Remember, the seating will be the single largest item in your worship space. Your seating selection will set the tone for the entire space.

Although the largest single furniture investment is the seating used by the congregation, the pulpit and other platform furnishings represent the focal point of the sanctuary. Since these furnishings are what everyone during the church service are actually looking at, it is very important that you select both the style and quality to set the tone for the entire sanctuary.

Sound Systems
Although the majority of the sound system is not seen, it is a major component to nearly every worship space. In many more contemporary spaces, it is not uncommon for sound systems to cost tens of thousands to many millions of dollars. When selecting a sound system, meet with several qualified sound consultants and have them design a system specifically for your worship space. Buying components off the shelf and putting a sound system together might have worked for that great stereo in college; it just won’t work in a house of worship. Do it right the first time. Have a sound consultant experienced in systems for churches come to your church and design the right sound system for your church.

This information is courtesy of Rardin & Carroll Architects, www.churchdesigners.com

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Religious Product News