Church Architecture: More Than a Facelift

by Polly House

New construction will give new face to Franklin Avenue Baptist Church

Franklin Avenue Baptist Church

Franklin Avenue Baptist Church

New Orleans is once more a grand lady putting on her make-up and dressing up for company.

New construction continues to make the city more livable and bring a new prosperity to the area.

Franklin Avenue Baptist Church and LifeWay Architecture have collaborated to make a big impact with a new church building project, set to break ground in the spring of 2013.

Gary Nicholson, director of LifeWay Architecture and a graduate of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, was working with the church to design a new building in 2005 when Katrina hit. He and FABC Pastor Fred Luter have spent much time together in the seven years since Katrina talking about the needs of the church, which was devastated with eight feet of water after the hurricane.

Nicholson served as a consultant to the church to help them make decisions about how to get back to a habitable state. They restored their location in the 8th Ward, not knowing if many in the congregation would ever return after being flooded out of their homes.

Today, the church has once again outgrown its building and its landlocked location, so LifeWay Architecture has again been invited to help. This time, LifeWay Architecture is designing a brand new facility for the church on property in New Orleans East, a few miles away from its current location.

Luter learned more about LifeWay Architecture during his tenure as a LifeWay trustee and developed a greater appreciation for the skills the team brought to the table.

"When they [FABC] decided to do this new construction, they asked us to take the project from ‘soup to nuts' for them," Nicholson said.

LifeWay Architecture has provided a master plan for the new site, based on a series of conversations and site visits to New Orleans. A construction company will do the actual building, but LifeWay's architects will remain as the architect of record for the entire project.

Nicholson said LifeWay Architecture has worked with as many as 110 churches in a year in an advisory capacity, but the number has been far less in the past few years.

"The economy has been a big factor in the number of churches we work with," he said. "Churches are still building and redesigning space, but they have been more hesitant to start large projects given the economy. However, that trend seems to have begun reversing itself in recent months."

He said one reason churches that are looking to build or redesign space are eager to work with LifeWay Architecture has to do with the value LifeWay brings to the project.

"In addition to our experience and knowledge of church design, with LifeWay a church gets a bottom line fee," he said. "We quote the church a fixed fee for our services. After we define the cost of the project, we set our fee and that doesn't change. With most architects, fees are based on a percentage of the construction cost and their fee will rise as the job cost rises. So their initial quote often won't be the fee a church has to pay by the time the job is over."

LifeWay Architecture starts with an on-site consultation. This is usually a two-day intensive study at the church to determine what, how and when they need to build.

"The cost of this consultation will vary," Nicholson said.

"We are always honored when we get to work with a church on their facility needs," Nicholson said. "We want to help the churches be attractive and highly functional so they can better serve the communities they have been called to reach."

Image Gallery

Artist rendering - elevation

Franklin Avenue Baptist Church

Artist rendering - aerial

Franklin Avenue Baptist Church

Artist rendering - worship center

Franklin Avenue Baptist Church

Hurricane Katrina damage

Franklin Avenue Baptist Church

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