Editor’s note: The educational facility on the campus of Dawson Memorial Baptist Church located in Birmingham, AL, was recently featured in Religious Product News. This new facility along with other renovations was a CDH design project. Ernest “Terry” Biglow was the principal interviewed concerning this project. This post contains a portion of the article below and a link to the entire article.
Dawson Memorial Baptist Church
By: Jennifer Walker-Journey – Religious Product News
With more than 7,800 members, Dawson Memorial Baptist Church is one of the largest churches in the Birmingham, Alabama, suburb of Homewood. Over the years, the campus has expanded to include an administration building, family life center, and a parking deck.
One of the church’s priorities is serving its families, which means children are of particular interest. In fact, church families welcomed 70 new babies a year for the past three years. The original education building dated back to 1965 and was “bursting at the seams with young people, which is fantastic,” the Rev. Gary Fenton told The Birmingham News.
Knowing this, it is easy to understand why the church’s leadership focused on creating a better environment for its children and youth. But renovation and expansion was challenge from the start. Dawson’s campus offered little room for a new building or an expansion. Even the church’s administration building was built across the street from the church.
But there was hope and the leadership team discovered this when they sat down with architects and engineers with CDH Partners in Marietta, Georgia. Their options were drawn up. Designers proposed that the church purchase the street between the back of sanctuary and the administration building. A new education building would be constructed in between these two structures.
It was a clever idea, but one that neighboring residents just couldn’t warm up to. The church and architects eventually realized it had to scrap those plans and, literally, head back to the drawing board.
“It had really forced our hand on the location of the building,” explained architect Terry Biglow, who is an associate principal with CDH. “In fact, the only space left was the front yard, and that’s what we used.”
The new addition connects to the existing education building and stands between the sanctuary and family life center, and angles toward Oxmoor Road—a main thoroughfare that runs through Homewood.
The addition is a four-story facility that fits perfectly with the traditional sanctuary and other campus structures. A window wall was used to bring natural light into a stairway that also is a nighttime visual element.
Biglow explains, “Because of local zoning height restrictions, a basement level with areaways on each side was included in the design.” Each level has eight classrooms, some of which have operable partitions. On the top floor, four of the eight classrooms were merged together to form an auditorium for youth performances and meeting space.