It has been brought to my attention by a number of church members about who gets to decide the final aesthetics of worship space interiors. Church members of some newly built churches which are less than one year old were pointing out to me that in the end, we acoustical designers get to ultimately decide the final aesthetics of a church – not the architect, no matter how much effort an Architect puts into the aesthetics of a worship space. If this sounds familiar then check out my post in 2012 where I made a similar post. This discussion comes up often.
It seems that when acoustics are included in the design stage of a worship space, the Architect has the last say on the rooms aesthetics – assuming the acoustical plans are not compromised later on. When acoustics are left out of the design phase of planning a new church, it is people like me that get the final say in the room aesthetics. Whether it is while the building is being built or anytime later – even 200 years later, it is people such as myself that often make the final aesthetic changes that will last the life time of a church building.
The good news is, is that when we are included in the design phase of a new church, often our acoustical designs blend into the architecture and it is often not seen or at least not seen as an acoustical add-on. In fact, often our acoustical designs come off as the Architects design of the worship space and at times to the untrained person it looks like we had done nothing. Where friction often comes up, is when after the design of the church has been completed and the church board has given the green light, that is when someone raises the issue of acoustics. Often there are major acoustical issues as what is taught in Architectural schools is about concert hall acoustics, school auditorium acoustics and lecture room acoustics.
Church acoustics is totally different and I don’t know of any place were “church acoustics” is taught. This is often why bringing someone like me after a finished design is presented to a church where butting heads starts. When there are glaring mistakes being made and we point them out, it often means major design changes which often cost money to change at this phase. Once past the design phase, churches are rarely ready to pay for design changes that often means delaying the project which increases costs higher. As a result acoustics is usually left until the church is finished. But wait! A church is not finished until the acoustics are done.
As stated before, it is people like me who get to decide the aesthetics of a church when acoustical design is left out. This goes for new churches, storefront churches, churches moving into commercial buildings or are using commercial building designs and churches doing renovations. If you are an architect, include us at the beginning of the design process and the aesthetics will be all about you. Leave us out of the design process and no matter how beautiful a space you thought you designed, it will be people like me who get to decide it’s final finish and sometimes, what we do is not very flattering but when it sounds great, the less than pleasing acoustical treatment starts to look good.
Joseph De Buglio
PS: Don’t call us if you want someone to just rubber stamp your worship space designs.