Grace Bible Church

Houston, Texas 

The founding families of Grace Bible Church had always shared a nostalgia for the Texas Hill Country's rustic camp pavilions and grand ranch houses, and the mountain lodges of Colorado. In spite of Houston's typically sultry weather, this intrepid group of souls made outdoor living a part of their community's fellowship from the very beginning. When Grace Bible Church purchased a vacant industrial lot on the edge of a residential neighborhood popular with young adults and young families, the church charged Jackson Galloway Associates with designing a new 60,000 square foot campus that would facilitate intimate outdoor/indoor community connections and give them a permanent house of worship filled with beauty, strength, repose, and clarity. 

A vision of the church facilities as an extension of the domestic emerged. Grace Bible Church wanted their facilities to be a place where visitors would want to come back, stay late, hang out, plan events and make meaningful life-long friendships with one another. Given that the millennial generation has been over-saturated with advertisements and media bombardment, the church took a different tack to nurture engagement. The grand 2-story main lobby features no TV display monitors or bulletin boards. In fact, a visitor would be hard-pressed to find an advertisement displayed anywhere on campus. Instead, the circulation and fellowship spaces are punctuated with well-crafted livingroom furniture arrangements, artwork and decorative lighting. There are nooks and crannies everywhere to step out of the fray, sit down and enjoy the here & now in. The conference rooms are furnished with couches, coffee tables and wicker chairs instead of boardroom tables. The fellowship hall features a well-appointed variety of fine, comfortable seating and tables. The choices of light fixtures, iron railings, subdued color palette, and elegant contemporary carpentry gravitate to a tidy mission / craftsman style not foreign to the bungalow neighborhood. A far cry from conventional attempts at 3rd Places that resemble corporate lobbies or coffee chains, Grace Bible Church's various fellowship niches breathe the light, confident, sophisticated air of a living room we all wish we had at home, warm but free of clutter. 

An blended indoor/outdoor campus was accomplished by designing numerous layers of transition between environments, each with permeable boundaries. For example, the kitchen is open to the fellowship hall such that the two rooms together feel like a large open living room, separated only by a 20-foot-long dining table. The fellowship hall opens directly out onto the event pavilion through folding glass walls that can be retracted entirely. The courtyard is bounded on three sides with covered walkways, and on the south by a shaded outdoor playground. The main approaches to the campus from East and West both have deep arcades leading to the front doors. These large covered porches extend a gesture of openness to the neighborhood and are spacious enough to house outdoor activities of their own. 

The church directed Jackson Galloway not to make the sanctuary too big. They wanted room for growth, but not at the cost of a sense of community. 850 seats was the agreed-on target. The sanctuary's design strikes a balance between rustic and sophisticated, grand and intimate. Like others, Grace Bible Church has moved away from black-box highly produced worship, and instead embraced natural, low-impact acoustics, ample daylighting, and the organic experience of real people worshipping together with their voices, nourished by simple, natural beauty.

Size:  New ~ 60,000 SF

Client:  Grace Bible Church

Components:  800-seat Worship Center, Fellowship Hall, Courtyard, Preschool, Children’s and Youth Spaces, Adult Education, Admin Suite

Completion Date:  2014

Services:  Master Planning, Programming, Full Architectural Services, Interior Design

Photos by Brian Mihealsick


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