Church Design: Traditional vs Modern

February 7, 2019

The idea of ‘traditional churches’ conjures up an image of a rustic village church with a steeple and bells, but over the years they have changed dramatically. Some modern churches use modern design and architectural techniques to both make them look modern and interesting, but also effective as a space – enabling the `Church` to carry out all of their functions.

Churches today not only act as a place of worship, but many of them also have other needs. Churches often need a space for functions and events, such as other church use, community events and private events, as well as seating that fits these uses. For this reason, many modern churches reflect the architectural and structural designs of the time whilst being adaptable both inside and out.

Architecture and Structure

One of the most noticeable differences between traditional and modern churches is in their structure and architecture. Whilst there are obvious trends among church architecture, we can often see reflections of other building trends in their design.

There are, of course, a number of factors which can have an impact of the architecture and structure of a church when it is being designed and built. These include:

  • Budget – Some churches have a bigger budget to spend in terms of the design (and the architect) of the building, the materials which are used to construct it and its size. Of course, a prestigious church in a big city such as St Paul’s Cathedral in London, will need to be bigger, probably grander and maybe more `cutting edge` than a church for fewer people.
  • Location – The location of the church is also important in its design. A small village church wouldn’t have the same budget and would probably be unable to spend big on designers compared to a church which is destined to be a leading, flagship type church.
  • Function of the church – Designers must also take into the account what the function of the church will be. For example, does it need to be able to hold a large congregation? Does it need rooms to hire out? A kitchen? Does it hold events?

Church Interiors

The differences between traditional and modern churches are also noticeable in their interior. Early churches were set out simply, often in a cross shape, with enough room for the congregation and the alter at its most basic. As the years have gone on, architects have designed the interior of churches according to their needs.

Whilst it has been important for the church not to waste money on unnecessary objects and decoration, traditionally it was believed that the more ‘beautiful’ the church, the closer it is to God. This thinking, however, as been overtaken in more modern times with the idea that the church should be more functional, useful and, in many cases, less ornate.

To be able to fulfil the functional requirements of a modern church, there are a number of factors which should be considered:

  • It is useful to be able to change the seating arrangements in the church – the right seating can make such a difference, after all. Traditional, heavy pews are as good as unmovable, whereas stacking chairs can be moved, cleared and stored and rearranged is much more useful for a modern-day church.
  • Traditional churches are roomy and have bigger acoustics, whereas modern churches tend to soak up the sound. This means that often people who are talking or playing might need to use a microphone and the church might need speakers installed. Modern churches often do not have big church organs bellowing out, giving even more need for a sound system.
  • Modern churches tend to be trying to make their spaces more people friendly and community building. This is often done through more sociable seating arrangements and spaces to gather in.

The main difference between traditional and modern churches is the fact that they have had to adapt over time to be more functional. With a church that is adaptable, they are able to give extra facilities to their congregations as well as earn important income through the use of their property.