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Solomon Awards 2019 – Sevier Heights Baptist Church (Church Design – Youth and Children’s Spaces)

Sevier Heights Baptist Church of Knoxville, Tennessee, experienced a leadership change when their senior pastor of 30 years stepped down and a new senior pastor stepped in.

Along with this new season came a combining of the church’s two separate campuses into one.

From a practical standpoint, the need to accommodate a higher volume of people on one campus in a secure environment was critical, as was the need to address existing traffic flow inefficiencies in their Main Campus Children and Preschool areas.

From a facilities standpoint, cosmetic updates in the Preschool and Children’s Ministry areas were needed, as existing spaces had not been upgraded since 1999.

Additionally, entrances for Sevier Heights’ Children and Preschool Ministries were located at the rear of the building, and were not immediately visible to first-time guests. The implied message of this was that children were not valued within the fabric of Sevier Heights’ mission, so church leadership had a desire to bring children “front and center.” Sevier Heights Baptist Church (SHBC) reached out to Ferry Construction Services, LLC (FCS) for this next chapter in their story. The two entities combined efforts and worked closely in a design-build relationship to develop a Preschool and Children’s space that would achieve these goals, while simultaneously operating in a functioning building and active ministry schedule.

Early on in the process, FCS assisted SHBC in interviewing and selecting local architect Scott Harrop of C.S. Harrop Architects, who formerly was on the architectural team, contracted for SHBC’s North Campus project. This interdisciplinary team proved to be a valuable asset to the process and collaborative design process.

One of SHBC’s largest pain points on their Main Campus was an inefficient circulatory pattern within the Preschool and Children’s spaces. Upstairs, this formed the basis for a redesigned pathway for parent pick up and drop off in both Children’s Ministry large group worship rooms. To accomplish this, FCS relocated a set of doors leading into one worship room and re-oriented the entire room, including the stage. Decreasing the overall footprint of the second worship room and relocating both the entrance and exit for the space provided a solution, which combined security and functionality in one.

Downstairs, the Preschool check-in and information desk, entrance to the stairwell leading to Children’s Ministry spaces, and elevator all shared a single lobby. This lobby represented a gathering location for church members with young children, while also being a literal connection point for three main thresholds of SHBC’s Preschool and Children’s Ministries. As would be expected, this lobby was a point of congestion. Church leadership identified that this physical connection space was instrumental for fostering a sense of community, and communicated to FCS a desire to correct the overcrowding of the space.

Relocating the Preschool check-in off the main hallway of the church (identified as “Main Street”) altered the way people experience the lobby, and gave opportunity to celebrate it as a functioning communal space. Additionally, FCS identified the need for multiple check-in points to be placed throughout in order to maximize movement. Parents can now choose from one of 10 check-in stations both upstairs and downstairs. The resultant outcome of these design decisions has been monumental. Circulation patterns were now shaped into paths that were simplified, resulting in less congestion and ease of movement for those experiencing the spaces, while new thresholds and entrances have reduced visual barriers and added an overall sense of welcome.

An intentional vision statement of SHBC reflects a love for their city: “Shaping the way our city views Church.” During the church’s 2014 North Campus project, this vision was manifested in the themed, immersive environment of the Preschool and Children’s areas, where Atlanta-based Real-Fake Buildings (RFB) designed and built a Knoxville-themed city-scape. Engaging RFB to participate in extending this vision and environment on the Main Campus was a logical choice. FCS hired RFB for a collaborative design effort, and the process of giving the Main Campus Preschool and Children’s spaces an entirely new look began. Both ministry spaces were given new life as they emulated the look of Knoxville landmarks, buildings, and parks.

Classrooms and large group worship spaces received new color schemes, flooring, paint, and furniture. Many rooms received new cabinets, and new counter tops were installed in all classrooms. A “hang space” for older elementary kids was created and outfitted with games, gaming systems, and furniture. Architecturally, walls within a rotunda entrance at the rear of the building were reshaped, allowing for building facades and a representation of Knoxville’s Gay Street bridge to be constructed. The centerpiece of the rotunda is the 24-foot high hickory tree, designed and fabricated by RFB. This “real-fake tree” has now become a visual emphasis within the two-story rotunda, while a circular park bench around the trunk provides seating. The revised interior experience is a conveyed message to the public that Sevier Heights loves its city.

Purposing to emphasize children and their value, FCS suggested a complete relocation of the existing Preschool check-in space. FCS held conversations with members of SHBC’s Children’s and Preschool Ministry staff. Their words, ordeals, and experiences inspired FCS to propose the Preschool check-in area to be relocated off Main Street hallway. The result: an expansive threshold was created in the wall separating the midpoint of Main Street and a new Preschool check-in area where once a preschool classroom had been. This altered proximity of the Preschool check-in to the front entrance of the building facilitated a visual connection from the rear entrance while simultaneously creating shorter walking distances for parents utilizing the spaces. SHBC staff, volunteers, members, and most importantly, guests can now immediately understand the value SHBC puts on children.

SHBC’s total budget for this project was $1.85 million. Through FCS’ intentional decisions, processes of partnership with their client, and cost savings given directly back to SHBC, the project came in $170,000 under budget. Goals were accomplished and expectations exceeded within the set budget.

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