24 mar 16 | Building Design + Construction

Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture incorporates Biblical parable into church design

by Mike Chamernik

The mustard seed is such an appropriate parable that it was told three times in the Bible. As the story goes, the small, oblong seed grew into a large tree that attracted and housed a plethora of birds. 

Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture (AS+GG) drew inspiration from that story to design a new church in Glenview, Ill. The 72,000-sf Willow Creek North Shore is an ellipse-shaped building with a 1,200-seat auditorium, cafe, administrative offices, adult ministry spaces, educational classrooms, and other gathering points. Two spacious main entrances are connected to lobbies and circulation paths. 

“What was most important in the conceptual design of this building was to create a welcoming feeling and a diagram that was clear and understandable for both the first-time visitor as well as those who attend on a regular basis,” AS+GG Design Partner Adrian Smith said in a statement. “The gentle curve of the circulation paths allow occupants to flow through the space, while enjoying views of the outside.”

The building is elevated 5-8 feet from its original grade, which creates a plateau with sights of the retention pond and the surrounding community. Floor-to-ceiling windows will be installed to draw in natural light and face toward two landscaped courtyards, which can hold weddings, funerals, and other events. 

Construction began in June 2015, and the church is expected to open in the fall of this year. 

Along with AS+GG, Architecture, the project team was comprised of Glenn H. Johnson Construction Co. (contractor), Forefront Structural Engineers (structural engineering), and Heager Engineering (civil engineering).