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Trinity Lutheran Church
By: Jennifer Walker-Journey

When Trinity Lutheran Church in Lisle, Illinois, set out to expand in an effort to make itself more accessible and comfortable to both members and guests, the church turned to Jaeger, Nickola and Associates (JNA) to develop a master plan for its large campus. What the church soon discovered was that the answer to their prayers was far from a traditional master plan. In fact, meeting their goal would take them to a completely different location, where the church could offer its members and guests not only two different styles of worship, but also a nice menu of creative family-friendly amenities. 

Trinity Lutheran Church's main campus, known as Trinity Kimberly Way, offers a more traditional approach to worship. But the church's vision involved introducing a contemporary service. After much exploration, the church decided that the best way to achieve this goal would be to open a geographically separate site for its contemporary outreach, which would become known as Trinity Green Trails.

Both Trinity sites would provide similar creative elements, including its KidStreet experience for kids through fifth grade. Kimberly Way would offer what most people envision when they think of a traditional church. But the proposed Green Trails site would be entirely different, with a welcoming environment to appeal to young families with children. This invitation would extend not only to members, but nonmembers, who would be welcome to use the facility for events and parties.

It was a unique proposition, and JNA jumped into the design with vigor. Trinity had first identified a location – two storefronts in a suburban strip mall. The former Walgreens and video store would provide about 22,000 square feet in which to create the contemporary program. The interiors of both stores would be completely demolished and a new Trinity would be built in just one phase.

The main challenge would be working with the existing structural column grid, especially when it came to the development of a large worship space, which the church had requested. From a cost perspective, this restriction was could not be altered. Ultimately, architects were able to develop the room to maintain a single, exposed column while engaging others into the room enclosure. The location of the stage and radical seating would ultimately diminish the impact of the structural columns.

With its main issue identified and managed, JNA set to work on designing a plan to meet all the client's needs. JNA designed the 375-seat worship space at the back of the house, including a green room, dressing rooms, and a productions studio. The plans also called for a café for mingling and listening to music, complete with a children's play structure, a free children's play area, themed rooms for birthday party rentals, community theater productions, and even daily exercise classes. The interior space was made up of three main components – the Worship Room, Grounds for Hope Café, and KidStreet. Each was designed with a specific focus in mind.

"The worship room's developing and detailing is focused on technology," said Robert M. Nickola, AIA, president of JNA. "The subtle two-tone walls become a canvas for projected images that continually evolve during the service. The simple openness of the space architecturally reinforces the contemporary nature of the worship services."

The Grounds for Hope Café, highlights the "adult side" of the entire lobby. Painted black open structure, color gypsum walls, and vinyl flooring seek to develop a casual contemporary café setting. Flooring patterns and curving soffits soften the architecture while directing patrons to the service counter.

The KidStreet theme connects the four classrooms, each individually designed, detailed, and furnished to reinforce a specific age-related subject. The WonderHouse, Treasure House, TreeHouse, and the ClubHouse were all architecturally developed to reinforce the church's goal toward introducing religious education to young children.

KidStreet is embellished with three-dimensional storefronts, a clock tower, a tree house, an actual automobile front end and a working stop light. The WonderHouse incorporates suspended translucent panels in front of fluorescent lighting to create a glowing rainbow. The TreasureHouse is adorned with a gold metallic paint and a suspended jeweled crown. The TreeHouse is complete with a faux tree, actual tree house, and a slide. And, the ClubHouse is a working theater developed specifically for children.

On the outside, since the new site was part of a strip mall, architects were limited by the developer's restrictions. The church wanted the site's outward appearance to blend in with the existing community. Thus, traditional church symbolism was purposely avoided to present an open, welcoming environment that would not intimidate.

"Trinity Green Trails wanted to create a new way to grow the Christian religion," he said. "They wanted to create opportunities for people to be welcomed into the church for reasons other than attending church. They desired to eliminate the intimidation or trepidation that some may feel when entering church for the first time. They desired to have these opportunities become the impetus for coming back to Christ or finding him for the first time."

Jaeger, Nichola and Associates offer a broad range of experience in religious, educational, health care, and both senior and low-income housing. The firm has developed an expertise in developing Master Plans and Construction Feasibility Studies for buildings of all scales, www.Jaeger-Nickola.com.

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