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Solomon Awards 2018 – Free Chapel Main Campus; Gainesville, Ga. (Church Building Design – Traditional and Contemporary)

Project: Free Chapel Main Campus Expansion and Renovation

Location: Gainesville, Georgia

Architect: Brewster and Crocker Architects

Date of project completion: June 2018


Free Chapel is a multi-site megachurch with campuses currently in Georgia, California, and South Carolina. Brewster and Crocker Architects (BCA) partnered with Free Chapel in 2013, having designed and/or renovated all of their campuses providing complete Architecture, Project Management, Interior Design, Landscape Architecture, and Engineering.

By having a long-term relationship with Free Chapel, our understanding of Pastor Jentezen Franklin’s vision and how the church uses their facilities gives us unique insight that allows us to approach their designs without some of the initial concept struggles that some projects have. Pastor Franklin and his wife, Cherise, are highly involved with all aspects of their campus projects and the vision they cast makes it both easy and challenging at the same time. Their high standards of design excellence and quality always results in beautiful projects at all of Free Chapel’s campuses.

Design Objective and Challenges

The most recent project(s) included an overall campus expansion and redesign/renovation of their main campus in Gainesville, Georgia. The objective was a master plan and design that simply stated one of primary goals as a church – Connections – To create an environment and spaces that foster connections.

The church wanted to accomplish four things with this project:

1. Main Building renovation – a complete renovation of their main 157,000-square foot building and 3,300-seat auditorium.

2. Outdoor space that is usable.

3. A chapel for weddings, funerals, and other intimate events.

4. Water

As we dove into the project, we began discussing concepts for each of these with the church and what each building and area would look and feel like. The biggest design challenges were:

1. Updating and modernizing the main building with bold contemporary materials and finishes

2. Designing a new Chapel with an old-world feel while incorporating a modern twist.

3. Creating a large outdoor venue with spaces that can be broken down into smaller intimate areas/venues yet still allowing for large outdoor events.

4. Designing a transition from a very modern building to an old-world chapel while maintaining the continuity of the design.

The Main Building

Renovation of the main building needed to be bold and include both the exterior and interior. The church wanted to update their look and feel to reflect more of the church’s personality. The exterior included a complete makeover by adding anodized ACM panels for a very sleek modern look along with a complete color change on their existing EIFS and masonry, new lighting, and other changes incorporated in various areas.

The interior consisted of a makeover of the main 3,300 seat auditorium and stage renovation which included a new stage apron with back lit LED resin panels, concealed audio and video monitors, and a diamond polished concrete floor finish. In addition to auditorium renovation – the major focus was on the connections spaces which included a new welcome center, 3 information centers, a café, a large fellowship area with a stage that is used for service overflow seating and various weekly events, a multi-use center for things such as book signings/product sales for visiting artist/catering. The renovation also included the children’s auditorium, all children’s areas, corridors, decorative lighting, and all ancillary spaces.

Materials used throughout the facility included 3D wall panels, resin panels, video walls, backlit millwork, color changing LED lighting, decorative lighting, and new finishes.

The Chapel

To achieve the vision of the churches Chapel on McEver, along with the client, we studied many different types of chapels from around the world. The 12,000-square foot, 300-seat chapel features a beautiful stone/wood/glass sanctuary with a balcony and is surrounded by stone and glass on all four sides designed to enhance the room and the outdoor surroundings. The facility also has a reception hall on the lower level overlooking an outdoor plaza and the water feature. The result was a very old-world style featuring large gothic wood doors, a bell tower, buttresses, stone floors from Israel, stone interior and exterior walls throughout, stained wood beam trusses and ceilings, glass balcony rails, custom designed pews, slate-look roofing, and modern glass all blended together for an eclectic mix of “old world meets modern.”

The Outdoor Space and Transition

The key to transitioning from a very modern building to an old-world chapel while keeping the continuity of the design was incorporated in a series of transitional outdoor spaces comprised of:

• Hospitality terrace – which features stone terraced lounge seating groups and fire-pits overlooking the stage and water feature. – Amphitheater – features terraced seating with stone terraces, synthetic turf, a large stage that will accommodate a 60-foot by 80-foot concert stage.

• Water feature/fountain – which features the largest man-made reflection pond to date in the state of Georgia, water jets and fire bowls, and a large outdoor heated baptistry pool.

• Overlook terrace – this two-level terrace includes an intimate wedding terrace with seating for 300, a 28-foot-tall Rotunda, synthetic turf and architectural pavers. The lower level of the terrace is an open-air covered area that can be used for receptions, dinners, meetings, and other gatherings.

All of the spaces can be used independently or in conjunction with each other and house thousands at one time for a large outdoor church service or concert. Final Results The final result turned out to be spectacular – better than initially envisioned and the design accomplished everything the Owner set out to do. Project Credits: Architect – Brewster and Crocker Architects – Jeff Crocker, AIA, NCARB Project Manager – 3D Project Management – David Gay Interiors – Vivre Interiors – Cortney Orme, ASID General Contractor – Pellicano Construction, Stephen Dew

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