Creating meaningful spaces for connectedness

Effective gathering spaces can help build community

Deep down inside each one of us is the desire to be in community. There’s no doubt that connecting with other others is important to our personal well being. When thinking about your new church building, how can you use design to enhance the short time each week that people gather together after a church service? After all, church congregations should be able to, well, congregate.

Design for social interaction

This is where the built environment and the social environment overlap. As designers, we can manipulate the way architecture can support those critical social interactions. Architecture is the way in which the building elements are assembled to create space.

Create spaces people want to be in, and stay in

Light: it’s important to let in just the right amount of daylight. Sunshine is life, giving physical and psychological warmth to a space. Too much daylight is harsh and uncomfortable; control is the key. You need the right size windows in the right location.

Colors: we tend to relax and linger in spaces with warm, earthy colours like yellows, greens, browns.

Proportions: people are more comfortable in spaces that have a human scale, that is, designed with people in mind. Sensible, practical room height and width. More rectangular or squarish is better than linear, which encourages movement through.

Create space conducive to human interaction

Acoustics: the space should allow the human voice to travel comfortably, with the right blend of hard and soft surfaces. Too many hard surfaces creates echoes, while too many soft surfaces absorb sound and suck the life out of conversation.

Temperature: like Goldilocks, not too hot, not too cold, but juuust right. Fresh air should be plentiful but not drafty.

Materials: people like to be surrounded by warm and comfortable materials, not harsh institutional ones. When we’re comfortable we’re more likely to converse honestly and naturally. Natural textures like wood and stone are durable yet homey. We need enough variation in texture that we’re not bored.

Furniture: Give people a variety of seating options: tall tables and stools, comfortable couches and tables, chairs and bistro tables, and plenty of room to stand out of the path of movement.

Add food and coffee

What better way to interact socially with our friends than over a snack, a full meal or a good cup of coffee or tea? Make it convenient by locating this service in close proximity to your social space. Whether it’s a small coffee counter or a full service cafeteria you’ll find people will better enjoy connecting with friends.

Make social spaces a priority during design

These are a few ways in which you can facilitate those critical social interactions on Sunday mornings. Meaningful meeting spaces are not difficult or expensive to achieve, but they do need to be identified as a priority and then designed properly in the planning stage.

For help designing your great connection spaces contact David Parker or Kelly Seminoff at Parker Seminoff Architects or leave a comment below.

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