Casting Vision with Technology in Church Architecture

LS3P’s Faith Studio begins every project by listening intently to understand each church’s unique ministry and vision. Our team adheres to the premise that we partner with the churches we serve to create a structure that will ultimately serve as a tool to amplify their ministries. Our “Canvas Session” workshops allow us to understand our clients’ needs, goals, and vision. Once we have a grasp on the vision, our design team uses a variety of tools to enable the churches we serve to more effectively cast this vision to their congregation. Each church’s journey is different, so we work with each on a case-by-case basis to help provide information, images, videos, models, and immersive experiences that allow each congregation to tell its unique story.

Hand Rendered Plans, Elevations, and Perspectives:

Sometimes the best approach is the most low-tech approach. A hand-rendered drawing can convey a special warmth and human touch that may reflect a congregation’s welcoming personality. This drawing technique can also be beneficial when trying to convey a sense of process, illustrating that the design is still a work in progress. Even when working on a hand-rendered image, we may still incorporate a computer-generated background or color palette. Working between various media often allows the best of both worlds. We want to be good stewards of the ministry’s resources, and we understand that any time technology can improve our efficiency, we can reduce our cost to the churches we serve, enabling them to better serve their communities.

Three-dimensional Sketching Programs:

We frequently rely on three-dimensional sketching programs as a tool to generate early design concepts quickly, helping us convey our design ideas to churches during our “Canvas Session” process. These 3-D sketches can be used for simple massing models to begin site layout, or can become detailed enough to serve as conceptual renderings as we begin to develop the character of the building. In either situation, we can also use these digital models to generate an animation that begins to translate the design concept into a medium that the congregation can readily understand. The products of these three-dimensional sketching programs can become the backbone for early fundraising campaigns, and also serve as a way to ignite a spark for the church vision.

Three-dimensional Drafting Programs:

While the final product that we provide to the contractor for construction is typically a set of two-dimensional printed drawings, the program in which we create the design is a sophisticated 3-D drafting platform for Building Information Modeling (BIM). These building models can be the framework for advanced rendering capabilities, but they also function behind the scenes during the design development and construction document process to maintain coordination between the many complex building systems. The entire design team, including LS3P and our consultant engineers, uses synchronized three-dimensional models to preserve the client’s vision in a coordinated design.

Well-coordinated synchronized models lead to coordinated outcomes. This idea manifests differently according to the specific project. In a traditional sanctuary, incorporating AVL (audio, video, and lighting) seamlessly so that the technology seems to disappear is essential. A traditional space typically strives to conceal the equipment and to integrate the portions that can’t be concealed into the design aesthetic. Synchronized models help ensure that all elements of the building are incorporated properly and the beauty of the architecture remains unobscured.

Contemporary worship venues operating in more of a “black box” scenario may be less concerned with the visual aspect of their AVL equipment. However, given the complexity and size of typical AVL needs and other building service equipment, synchronized modeling can be vital in providing clash detection between conflicting elements before construction begins. This helps avoid potential additional costs and delays, allowing the church to use its funding as effectively as possible.

Photorealistic Rendering Programs:

With photorealistic images, churches are better able to truly understand the design. The programs we use allow for ultra high resolution still images, choreographed animated videos, and even curated real-time tours. In some instances, we have used photorealistic renderings formatted as 360° images taken from a specific location on a real physical site. Individuals were then able to “see” the design, while standing on the site, before the first piece of construction equipment arrived. These cutting-edge products provide opportunities to immerse our clients in the design and assist them in sharing their vision with their congregation.

Virtual Reality:

The future of architecture seems to have arrived, as we now have the capability to provide an immersive VR (virtual reality) experience during the design process. This tool, in tandem with photorealistic rendering, can allow the churches we serve to have a fully immersive virtual walk-through of their building well before ground is ever broken. VR can be invaluable when trying to help a church get a realistic grasp on scale, proportion, and even complex geometries that may be difficult to convey in another medium. As architects, we are able to use this tool to inform the design, such as more accurately determining how natural light will move through a space. Ultimately, VR tours can add another level to the ministry’s fundraising efforts and generate great anticipation for the project as this tool provides the most realistic glimpse into the church’s future.

Digitally Processed Physical Models:

There are times when having something physical to see and touch is more meaningful or more impactful than a two-dimensional image. For these situations, we assist churches using in-house digital processed modeling techniques. We have the capacity to interpret the 3-D programs we use into 3-D printed models. 3-D models are an excellent tool for displaying exterior forms and proportions, and to demonstrate how the building envisioned relates to the site and surroundings. In a world of screens, there is something special about a physical model that can be held in the hand, igniting excitement about the future building.

Of all the tools we have at our disposal, the most effective tool we have is our expertise and experience. We apply the experience of over 400 Faith projects in every aspect of the process, including helping every church determine what is the best combination of tools and techniques for casting its vision.

About Nathan

Nathan Asire joined LS3P’s Faith Studio in 2012. A graduate of Clemson University with both a Master of Architecture and a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture, Nathan brings a passion for designingbeautiful, functional, and timeless buildings that enhance worship and where believers can feel at home. His desire is to develop spaces that both excite the soul and magnify each congregation’s vision.

Nathan’s calling is to work at the intersection of architecture and faith – the seen and the unseen – in the buildings for the church. He has a never-ending desire to get every aspect of the project right, from the big picture down all the way down to the smallest details. He loves working with churches and seeing the church body come to life through the devoted efforts of people joining together to make a building project happen. His notable recent projects include Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Raleigh, NC; The Falls Church Anglican in Falls Church, VA; and the Church of the Resurrection in Baltimore, MD.

About Burgess

Burgess A. Metcalf, AIA, LEED AP, rejoined LS3P’s Faith Studio in 2014 to continue serving ministries by designing facilities that embody their vision. He uses his prior experience, including six years in forensic architecture providing expert services focusing on design and construction research, to provide innovative and effective designs. While Burgess now works exclusively in faith-based designs, he also has a wide range of architectural experience including recreational facilities, higher education, high school, single family homes, multi-family residential development, and light commercial. However, the majority of his design experience is through contemporary and traditional faith-based designs.

Burgess is an alum of Leadership Greenville Class 44, a yearlong leadership training program that immerses selected individuals in the community. He is active in Grace Church, serving as Community Group Leader, Culturally Engaged Representative, and elementary class teacher. Burgess has been a member of Rebuild Upstate’s Board since 2013, and served as chair for two years. He has also served on Board of AIA Greenville, including duties as President, and at the state level of AIA South Carolina as Upstate Director. He has facilitated a collaboration for a ramp design competition, where the winning design was constructed by AIAG for a Rebuild Upstate client. The LS3P Faith Studio in Greenville has also included Rebuild Upstate as one of the organizations they serve through organized volunteer afternoons. Burgess believes that finding synergies between organizations provides expanded mutually beneficial results.