Construction on our community center is moving along. If we were building a church building instead of a community center, I would use the same design criteria we developed. Here’s what we wanted in a building:
- Flexibility. We wanted to be able to play, eat, relax, and learn in the community center, so we designed spaces that would allow for all those activities. The kitchen is centrally-located and separate from all the rooms, allowing us to serve several groups meeting in different spaces at the same time. The entire building will be wifi, and we’ll have a wireless phone system, built-in projection, and portable audio/visual setups.
- Large, open spaces. We sized the spaces for different size groups — the gym is about 8,000/sf; the main hall is about 2,000/sf; the community room measures 1500/sf; and the media lounge, art room, and computer lab are all about 500/sf each. We can accomodate groups ranging from 12-400, depending on the function, furnishings, and arrangement. Our first designs featured 1200/sf of hallways, which we eliminated in order to open up the building as much as possible.
- Durability. We specified “school-quality” construction, so all the interior walls are either concrete block or brick, the gym has a high-impact sports floor, and the service areas — kitchen, restrooms, storage, and entrances — use tough, low-maintenance building materials.
- Beauty. Churches and communities often think that “beauty” costs a lot. Actually, designing an attractive building doesn’t cost any more than designing a unimaginative “box.” The exterior of our building will look like a renovated mill, in keeping with the historic old textile mill next door. Brickwork, color choices, finish materials, lighting, and furnishings were all selected by a professional designer in consultation with our board. It cost us a little more to hire a designer, but designers are experts in selecting paint, carpet, and furnishings for commercial buildings. The money we spent in design services has been more than returned in imagination and attractiveness.
Other design criteria come into play, like energy efficiency, landscaping, and site considerations. But, the four elements we focused on shaped our thinking and decision-making as we moved through the architectural design process.