Church architects are architectural professionals who specialize in the design of Christian houses of worship. Along with other faith-based professionals such as the mosque architect and synagogue architect, the church architect will incorporate elements that are part of the specific faith tradition in order to create a design that is conducive to the needs of the particular faith community. This often involves learning some information about the background, worship styles, and types of ministries that will be utilized within the walls of the edifice.
In pursuing a career in church architecture, the architect studies a wide range of styles that are found in several different schools, such as classical architecture, residential architecture, and contemporary commercial architecture. This allows the designer to develop a working plan that incorporates design elements that are likely to blend well with the needs and desires of the local congregation that will occupy the completed church building. Because of the broad knowledge at the fingertips of the church architect, it is possible for him or her to take information about what the church wants to do with the space and introduce them to particular design elements that they may not be aware of.
Along with a solid working knowledge of architecture, building materials, and other facets of constructing a church building, the church architect will also look to the distinctive aspects of the faith tradition that will occupy the completed building. Depending on worship traditions and the observance of various rites and ordinances, the architect may find it necessary to install a larger baptismal font or incorporate a smaller font that is ideal for use in baptisms that do not involve immersion. In like manner, the practices of the particular Christian faith may render the use of altars unnecessary or even eliminate a chancel or rostrum area at one end of the main gathering area.
This flexibility in the design of architectural plans for different Christian faiths makes it possible for the church architect to work with congregations that require anything from the majesty of a cathedral design to the simplicity of a Quaker meeting house. The architect can also work with the congregation to include such important features as handicap friendly restrooms, entrances and exits, and the incorporation of a speaker system that is compatible with equipment for the hearing impaired.
Along with seeking clients from many different Christian bodies, a church architect may choose to work for one particular denomination. This is usually the case when the denomination in question prefers to use a limited number of approved designs for their houses of worship. Within this capacity, the church architect will focus on making sure the plans remain in compliance with current laws as they relate to each new building location. The architect will also advise denominational officials of any enhancements or changes that must be made to comply with local building codes, and oversee the implementation of those changes.