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Solomon Awards 2019 – Houston’s First Baptist Church Downtown (Church Building Design – Traditional and Contemporary)

  • Houston's First Baptist Church Downtown.
Houston’s First Baptist purchased a 40,000 square-foot building as the new home for their downtown campus. The building, which occupies an entire block of downtown, is clearly visible from nearby Highways 45 and 59.

This presented a unique design opportunity to reach everyone who drives by the building through inventive treatment of the existing façade and signage. The church’s primary goal was to create a place of light in the city, with a design that resonated with the increase of millennials living downtown. This was achieved with the help of Kirksey Architecture, by creative illumination on the façade, anchored by the addition of a 70-foot, LED cross.

The interior renovation transformed the assembly hall into a flexible worship space seating up to 600 people. Existing office space became a new welcome center and café, classrooms to accommodate preschoolers through adults, and church administrative offices alongside rentable office space.

Houston’s First Baptist started downtown in 1841 and moved out in the 1970s, to what was then considered a suburban location along I-10 at the West Loop. The church has held Bible study classes downtown since it moved, and it restarted Sunday services there in 2011. Its congregation has been meeting on the tunnel level of 1010 Lamar, the building developed on the site where the church once stood. The church had been looking for a more permanent location as downtown and the neighborhoods around it grew. With more than 5,400 residents now living in downtown Houston, the church decided to make a move on purchasing the former Communication Workers of America building and began the renovation process.

The result is a complete transformation of a standard office building into an iconic landmark that will shine in downtown Houston for years to come.

Once the church identified the downtown building it hoped to buy, it was able to obtain almost 80 percent of the purchase price from donors. The rest was covered by existing church coffers. Then during a Sunday service in February 2017, the church held a “day of giving” across all of its campuses and asked worshippers to give toward the downtown project to raise the renovation funds.

Houston First Baptist Church’s expanding presence in downtown created a place of worship for the influx of young residents living in the area. With the increased space, the church is now able to share the facility with local non-profit groups, while collaborating on programs for the community.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Downtown District’s Bob Eury were both present for the grand opening ceremony and thanked the church for adding this amenity geared toward downtown residents. They emphasized how it improves urban livability and supports the long-term plan for downtown Houston.

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