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Solomon Awards 2018 – Mountain Park Community Church (Church Building Design, Traditional and Contemporary)

Two years prior to opening their new facility, Mountain Park Church (MPC) received an eminent domain letter from the State Department of Transportation (ADOT) stating that the church was in the path of the proposed Interstate Bypass Freeway and had 24 months to vacate their 20-year-old facility. God had ADOT “miraculously” set aside a new site for the church, which was on the intersection of the I-10 freeway and the new bypass loop, giving superior visibility and location. Though they loved their original campus, the church had the rare opportunity to create a Version 2.0. With this unparalleled possibility in mind as the overarching goal for the project, the same design team set out to creatively improve every ministry area and to capitalize on their now national church practice experience and research.

MPC expressed their goal of replicating or improving on the community gathering feel of the original campus and lobby, which was its most desired attribute. The resultant design was a two-story solution that increased the square footage from 36,000 square feet to 48,000 square feet. The central “lobby concept v2.0” was an activated, dynamic two-story volume where the various generations purposefully interact as they pass each other or as they stop in a seating area to connect. The lobby is flooded with natural daylight by the full height, shaded glass on both sides of the lobby, allowing the church’s values of transparency and hospitality to be expressed.

Wayfinding is simplified by having a color-coded “shadow box” portal visible from the lobby for each ministry area. The integrated lobby café was so successful that the sales volume from the first two Sundays exceeded the sales from the previous year for the original campus’ café! The lobby area spills out in both entry directions as exterior lobby patios for additional community gathering and connection. Similarly, the second floor railing has seating along its perimeter, which also looks down into the lobby space.

The “flex design” worship auditorium was designed to maximize the church’s goal of intimacy and to provide ease in flexing for the differing service attendance numbers, while still feeling “comfortably full.” With minimal changes, the room can fluctuate from 750 to 1,150 depending upon seating arrangements and opening the second floor. The stage area has the unique feature of an operable rear wall that can open to an exterior amphitheater for joint indoor/outdoor services, boosting seating capacity to 1,500. Even with this capacity, the furthest seat is only 74 feet from the speaker! The worship space was also designed with the latest technology in mind. The services begin with full natural daylight and then transition to a video environment with motorized shades, environmental projection, and RGBW house lighting. The next phase will install the planned full width LED video walls and full immersive video experience. To eliminate the negative stigma of a church balcony, three “skyboxes” were added to allow for a more relaxed “seeker” environment on the second floor. Couches, bar height bistro tables, tablet-armed sofa chairs, and theater seats were added to both floors in order to give all generations diverse seating options.

The children’s ministry had the goal of a fun, unique, yet safe experience for the children. The resultant design was a festive, two-story circular building with its own security and access to play areas. Each level has a secure entry check-in lobby that eliminates hallways and allows for parents to build relationships as their similar aged children grow up together. The space doubles as the “children’s church” area once the parents have gone to service. Each class has glass garage doors that also expand the capacity of the community room when opened. The first floor Pre-K area opens into a secure indoor play area, when desired.

The student ministries wing has a multifunction room on the first floor that is designed to be able to quickly transition to an adult class or the Christian yoga room. This space has garage doors to the exterior, which allow the students to flow out to the recreation areas or to use the stage for a live performance on the outdoor patio. The second floor loft has break out spaces and an overflow classroom with glass garage doors.

The “great rooms” are the most used indoor space, accessed from the second floor balcony area. The space can be subdivided into three adult classrooms or quickly changed with operable walls into a single 200 seat gathering space, which has great views of the community.

The most prominent, visible space is the outdoor, covered roof terrace above the lobby and “great rooms.” The space can be rented for receptions or business conferences but is most often used for special events such as Community Prayer Night, weddings, rooftop yoga, men’s breakfasts, etc. It is also popular due to its dramatic views of the nearby mountains and the community below. The fabric roof structure design symbolizes the sheet of atonement being dropped over the mercy seat of the lobby, signifying God’s forgiveness and His love for His people.

Lastly, the project was designed to be financially sustainable. In addition to the church having lowered their energy bills significantly, the building was designed with at least 10 possible sources of additional income stream, if the church desires. For example, the rooftop terrace can be rented for weddings/receptions/corporate events, the indoor play area can host birthday or sports team parties, the children areas can be licensed as an Early Learning Center, there are at least 5 pre-designated wedding locations, the café is licensed for a full time, full service use, etc. In all, MPC had nearly 60,000 square feet of desired program space that the design team was able to fit into the 48,000 square foot building (e.g.,- the building has only 75 lineal feet of public corridor space among the three levels).

The most encouraging statistic is that this stagnated, 30 year old church has seen an increase in attendance of 41 percent since it opened.

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