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(above) Much of the first floor is programmed for children’s activities. (below and bottom) A coffee and snack shop is set off the main circulation corridor adjacent to the area for the youngest kids.

church projects when they were interviewed for the job. What they had, instead, was a deep knowledge of the organization of large spaces and a keen understanding of how large groups of people circulate and congregate in those spaces. Scott Hall, the firm’s lead designer for the project, points out that the buildings used previously by Fellowship Bible Church were organized around a courtyard. In the new building, the cineplex lobby – or “circulation mall” – was converted to function in a similar way to the courtyard in the old location. Modifications included new skylights to bring additional natural light into the space and seating was added along with information kiosks and children play areas. The old circulation mall is now the heart of the new building, and it is easy to picture how alive it can be when full of people. The main worship space was created by combining three theater auditoriums into a single, larger hall that accommodates up to 1,300 people. Architects of similar buildings (e.g., auditoriums, churches, and performing arts centers) know that one of the main challenges in designing such spaces is the creation of halls that are large in size but intimate in feel and perception. Fellowship’s main worship space does not disappoint in this regard. While Omniplan added sound attenuation to improve the quality of interior acoustics, Hall says that “because of the facility’s previous use, the building walls and roof were already designed to quiet exterior noise.” The architects also designed the church to accommodate interactive technologies. Not only can worship services be broadcast live in other locations, but the building is also equipped to incorporate congregants’ laptop use and texting onto projection screens during services. “Since the average churchgoer today is accustomed to instant communication,” explains Hall, “it is essential to design worship spaces for the digital age without sacrificing architectural aesthetic or the opportunity to make real personal and spiritual connections.” This is already true today, and will certainly become commonplace in similar buildings in the future. The renovation also included conversion of the ground floor as nursery and children’s space and counseling areas. A new third floor was constructed for administrative space. The total cost for the project was $8 million. The design for the building was conceived with future growth in mind. In addition to adapting the cinema building for immediate use, Omniplan also master-planned the site for expansion. That work may begin soon as the church keeps pace with its growing congregation, with buildings to be erected in an underutilized parking lot just north of the church. The design for the expansion will tie back to the parti diagram adopted for the adaptive reuse. Not only has the cineplex building been saved and infused with activity, which benefits the shopping center as a whole, but the success of the project will eventually extend to repurposing the adjacent vacant parking lots. The leaders of Fellowship Bible Church and their architects are to be commended for showing how to effectively adapt existing fabric. The future of Dallas is well served by their example. Eurico R. Francisco, AIA, is a vice president of RTKL in Dallas.

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Texas Architect March/April 2009: Adaptive Reuse  

Texas Architect, March/April 2009; Official magazine of the Texas Society of Architects|AIA

Texas Architect March/April 2009: Adaptive Reuse  

Texas Architect, March/April 2009; Official magazine of the Texas Society of Architects|AIA