The Word of Life Church is a 26 year-old nondenominational congregation with a somewhat nontraditional style of worship ill-suited to their original building. After quickly outgrowing it, they purchased a 172-acre parcel of land on which to realize their vision of a ministry not limited by facility or size restrictions. When GS&P first met with the congregation, which numbers between 2,000 and 3,000 members, Jim Griffo, AIA, and his design team were immediately struck by the ethnic, racial, social and economic diversity of the membership. That diversity became the foundation of the church's interior design and architecture.
At first glance, the 56,000-square-foot structure, cascading down the ridge line of the property, appears as one building. Upon closer inspection it is actually two linked buildings: the worship center and an education building. Different materials, brick patterns and colors combined with a seemingly random placement of windows break down the façade of the two buildings; architecturally distinguishing each of them as separate buildings, with unique personalities. These diverse design elements purposely reflect the diversity of the people inside the buildings.
The larger building houses an assembly area, or worship center, seating 1,500 people. It has a nautilus shell floor plan, delineated by curved walls and an arc where floor coverings transition from carpet to tile. A dark, soaring ceiling hides lights and suppresses sound, all the while helping this vast space seem intimate.
The second building is devoted to children's classes and worship services. It is, however, anything but a typical religious space. Corridors and worship spaces are painted in an array of 18 vibrant colors. Windows of varying sizes have been punched through walls in surprising places, to both reflect the random nature of the exterior windows and to bring more light into interior rooms. The whole effect of the church's interior design invites celebration, not just in the children's areas, but also throughout the building.
Jim Griffo thinks one of the unique things about the project is that people don't expect it to be a church. Once they realize it is a church, the reaction often is: "Well that's pretty cool. Somebody really did something different," a sentiment that fits comfortably with the congregation's view of itself. The design/builder of the project, Myrick, Gurosky & Associates, recently reported that the congregation has experienced considerable growth since moving into their new home. Because community outreach is one of the most important parts of their ministry, one could say that the project has clearly been a success.