July/August 2017


Designing for sight, sound … and health

I attended a Faith and Prayer Breakfast back in the spring at the AIA17 convention in Orlando. It was my intention to report on the talk given there by Dr. Des Cummings Jr., Ph.D. Divinity and executive vice president of Florida Hospital. The hospital is reported to be the largest admitting hospital in the country.

I was drawn into Cummings’ message about where architects fit into societal change and the need for health and wholeness. Clearly, as consumers and members of society, all of us rely heavily on technology to function in today’s world and the built environment. Technological innovations allow us to communicate, express ourselves, and project mass-consumption messages with stunning clarity. But if technology can help us communicate so much better, why can’t technology also help us reinforce and promote our own health even better? Cummings’ talk took that direction … it was a natural for him in his role at the hospital, and he seemed eager to share his thoughts with “creators,” as he calls architects, saying, “Architects have at their hearts the creation of design.”

The architect, he surmised, has the ability and responsibility to promote better health and cohesion within built environments. Aside from building automation and incorporation of other advanced networks of technology, such as digital audio networking within a modern church facility, buildings themselves can be part of a larger network of health and wholeness within a community. “Innovation is holistic—mind, body and spirit,” Cummings reminded attendees.

Cummings went on to note, “The body is simply a scoreboard of what is happening in [a] person’s heart and mind; society is plagued with health issues and addiction.” Yet, knowing this, together those who help create the physical structures of our communities can work together to “build in” better health at the planning stages. In Cummings’ experience at Florida Hospital, this holistic approach is what has made the healthcare operation a success. “We sought to design a facility that would treat the whole person throughout their whole life,” he says.

Looking at this issue, I see elements of Cummings’ philosophy brought to life by designers of buildings, spaces, technologies and their frameworks. In our feature project, “Tell-Tale Salvation," a profile of Shepherd Church in Northern Los Angeles by Carolyn Heinze, architectural designers with Visioneering Studios incorporated story into the structure of the Porter Ranch, Calif., multisite facility. They also crafted hubs where people can sit down together, talk and connect about daily life and spiritual journeys.

This issue is also rich in features on the technology that’s helping church buildings contribute to healthy community outreach. You’ll find the feature, “Well Connected” by Andy McDonough, that digs into designing future-proof AV networks for the church, to send messages of hope and health inside its walls and beyond.

My hope is that this issue helps you connect a little more deeply with your personal mission as a church architect, designer or consultant. And that you gain appreciation for the important role you play in keeping society well-functioning, connected and healthy—mind, body and spirit.


Carol Badaracco Padgett

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