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Solomon Awards 2019 – Crossroads East Side (Building Design Project – Other Religious Building or Use)

“There is definitely a wow factor, it’s an unexpected experience when you walk through the doors of our church. You don’t anticipate having such an emotional response to a building in a strip center.” That’s how Greg McElfresh, the Community Pastor at Crossroads East Side, feels about his home church. As the design team, Champlin Architecture was tasked to create a spiritual oasis in an otherwise thriving strip mall. The goal was to create a place where the unique community of the east side of Cincinnati could come together and celebrate their differences and a place where the honesty of the architecture reflects the honesty of a welcoming Crossroads Church – “Raw, Rough and Real” as Senior Pastor Brian Tome defines that honesty, the architecture reflects a sense of unpretentiousness.

The east side of Cincinnati represents a broad set of people, that is more rural and traditional on one side of town and very suburban and modern on the other side of town. It was important to Crossroads to make each individual who walked through their doors, feel at home. “We want everyone who comes to our church to feel like they can worship here. We truly are a real place for real people who may have given up on church, but not on God.”

Crossroads has been one of the largest and fastest growing churches in the nation, and for good reason: they know how to build and foster community. They also have a passion for adapting out of date or vacant community buildings, and making them a special place in which to gather and worship.

Formerly an unoccupied big box retail tenant space in a strip mall, its transformation into the new home of Crossroads East Side has made a huge impact on this particular neighborhood. “Being in a busy and popular location, we needed a commanding entrance. The strength of the front façade a relief to the typical storefronts found in strip malls, provides so much character to the building and really makes our church stand-out in this busy area,” said Community Pastor McElfresh.

The redesign of this project was about so much more than just the exterior. “We open our building during the week and bless them with free coffee, Wi-Fi, meeting spaces, and a respite away from shopping. It’s such a welcoming environment that it helps in bringing folks back to experience church on the weekend.”

Our design team wanted to create the best experience for each person at Crossroads, and while talking with Greg and his staff about how they wanted to develop this new location; they wanted to make sure the different traditional and modern values were respected and integrated into the shared space. An unused and old barn from the area was deconstructed and re-purposed into several aspects of the building, enhancing the use of authentic and honest design materials.

Rough-hewn beams salvaged from the barn were used to create a unique design element at one of the main entrances. Beginning at the over-sized wood burning fireplace, a staple at all Crossroads locations, the beams gradually reduce in density as they move away from the fireplace.

The wooden beams set the tone for the entire space, making it feel more welcoming than your standard blackout high bay ceiling of a big box store. Champlin brought the scale of the space down by the fireplace, for more intimate and private reflecting moments. This created an organic, but logical rhythm to how the beams are spaced. Lighting was mixed into the layout seamlessly, in order to provide adequate, even lighting to the space.

In the chapel, planed down and oil rubbed reclaimed wood expresses how the old can be transformed and given new life for a modern take on this traditional material, while still remaining one of Crossroads most traditional looking worship spaces. While we wanted to help elevate the Crossroads brand and create a beautiful and unique space to worship, it did not come without its design obstacles.

Tenants occupying the remainder of the building presented some site challenges and required a lot of creative work from the design team: A mezzanine was designed to create additional floor area for classrooms; a 2,100-seat state-of-the-art auditorium was added via a significant addition to the retail center site; and a secondary main entrance in the back of the building were incorporated to take advantage of alternative parking so that all the parking for shopping center was not monopolized on Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings during services.

This was a special project for the people involved throughout the construction process. On many occasions, the design team would hear how working on the building was such a meaningful experience for the construction team and they took great care and pride in their work, even feeling compelled to talk openly about their faith and what it meant to them. Greg stated it well, as he added, “I think God definitely had a hand in this process.”

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