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Solomon Awards 2018 – Crossroads (Church Building Design, Traditional and Contemporary)

Crossroads Church began 20 years ago with a goal in mind to establish a church facility within 20 minutes of everyone in the greater Cincinnati area.

Due to the growth in congregants from the city’s west side and attraction from communities in Indiana, Crossroads purchased the old Three Rivers Middle School site with the goal of opening a new west side multi-site campus location. Champlin Architecture developed a master plan for this facility which included strategies for phased renovations and development of this 33-acre campus.

The first phase worked on a shortened schedule with the chief goal of opening a facility as quickly as possible to serve the community. Given the tight time frame and low budget, most of the renovations were cosmetic in nature and included finish upgrades to the 400-seat auditorium, state-of-the-art audiovisual technology, conversion of the old library into an open atrium and entry, meeting rooms and thirteen Kids’ Club rooms.Children from birth through fifth grade can attend Kids’ Club while their parents attend church services.

Also included in the renovations were adult classrooms/meeting spaces and worship/meeting and hang-out spaces for Crossroads’ Student Section, the ministry for Middle and High School students.

Crossroads typically purchases former big-box retail stores and empty warehouses for renovation when opening a new facility. Such buildings often have high-bay construction and sit on flat sites with ample parking, making the shell conducive to tall atrium spaces, entry lobbies and sanctuaries, which are staples of the Crossroads experience that focuses heavily on community interaction and engagement in the spaces outside the main worship center.

Three Rivers Middle School represented an antithesis to the church’s archetype. As a middle school, the parking lot was only large enough to support staff, and the site sits on a plateau with a thirty-foot drop beginning just to the west of the building edge. Designed as a split-level building, the classroom wing sits approximately six feet above the grade of the rest of the building, which presented the design team with a challenge to link together the disconnected structure.

Additionally, all the walls in the building were loadbearing masonry with low roof decks, except for the gym and auditorium, creating a challenge to design an entry lobby suitable for large-scale gathering.

Even with the apparent architectural issues with the existing building, the location and campus size were ideal for the continued growth of the Crossroads brand. Despite upgrades to the existing finishes, which match the church’s design and branding guides, many of the congregants felt the church did not feel like Crossroads due to the existing architectural limits.

The community’s rapid growth necessitated a facility expansion to double the auditorium size and create an atrium/entry and additional parking to support the growth in attendance. The pastor also charged Champlin with the task of creating the Crossroads experience for this phase of the project. Champlin and the rest of the design team began with developing a new site plan and circulation pattern to accommodate 300 new spaces on the old football field, which sits thirty feet below the building floor level.

A new stair path with integrated seating at landings along the hill, as well as a landscaped, multi-level entry plaza connect churchgoers to old and new entries into the expanded atrium space with high-bay ceilings and a flood of natural light through storefront glazing, clerestory windows and skylights.

The expanded auditorium extends to the back of the original, increasing the seat count from 400 to over 800 and stepping up on concrete risers above a foam base to reduce lateral load on existing walls and foundations. Within the new atrium space are a coffee service area, café seating, soft seating and an information center to welcome churchgoers and provide an integral part of the Crossroads experience.

Keeping the church actively operational during construction was critical to project success, and the design and construction team developed the project timeline and logistics to allow the building project to be completed with no interruption to church service. In addition, carefully curated construction barriers and visual openings allowed the congregation to see the new space take shape and keep interest and momentum high for the duration of the project.

Construction began with site development as an early package to facilitate increased parking and attendance with church overflow service in the gymnasium. The building expansion progressed with connections to the existing structure intact until the new space was fully finished and cleaned for occupancy. The final step of the project involved removing the connection spaces, including demolition of the original auditorium back wall, which housed the audio, visual and lighting pathways and equipment.

This task was completed over the course of one work week so that the congregation was able to attend church in a 400-seat auditorium one weekend and then occupy an 850-seat auditorium the next weekend. The expansion project reached substantial completion for Easter with a large dedication service that filled the new atrium space with people.

Capitalizing on the challenges and opportunities of site topography, the new space brought height, light and volume to a previously dark and low building. The interior and exterior material palette speak to the church’s design standards and provide an enhanced experience above the single pane glass and tan masonry of the original building. Increased circulation, gathering space both indoors and out and a well-equipped parking lot now welcome the church to a home that is unmistakably Crossroads.

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