Acton Ostry Architects celebrate opening of Christ Worship Centre in Surrey

Located in the growing region of Surrey in British Columbia, on a lightly wooded and gently sloping site adjacent to an agricultural land reserve, the new 36,000-square-foot Christ Worship Centre serves a congregation of predominantly Chinese parishioners.

Quiet in form and expression, rich in symbolism, and robed in the colours of gold, frankincense and myrrh, the new Christ Worship Centre houses the fellowship functions that form the backbone of the congregation’s community life. As the first phase of a larger congregational complex, the recently opened facility serves as a Fellowship Hall that accommodates a feature lobby, daycares and classrooms, a library and dance studio, administrative offices, a dining hall with a commercial kitchen, a choir room, and a gymnasium with stage. The latter is serving as a temporary worship space until all phases are complete. Subsequent construction will include a small chapel and a large sanctuary solely for worship. When finished, the complex will provide 64,000 square feet of congregational space.

Situated to the south of the site, preserving field, forest and creek to the north, the Centre takes advantage of an existing hedgerow to frame the current structure and the future chapel. Construction materials are modest but durable: buff concrete block, concrete, glass and Jerusalem stone.

A focal space was designed in the first phase of the project to express the ongoing spiritual aspirations of the congregation, without detracting from their loci in the future chapel and sanctuary. Thus, the “Lobby of Light” was born. This double-height space is both a threshold and a soaring circulation crossroad. In classical antiquity, ether was thought to be the fifth element of nature; the quintessential “Living Garment of God” woven in light unchanging and eternal. In this spirit, sheets of clear, purple, amber and golden glass vest a series of wood frames, creating an almost vaporous glow. Remaining finishes for the lobby are simple and spare: translucent glass guards, maple panelling, and a polished concrete floor to capture and reflect the coloured light.

The Fellowship Hall is finished to a high degree in recognition of its multi-functional use as a gymnasium, banquet hall, and worship space. Walls are a combination of buff-coloured concrete block with maple panelling while the ceiling is clad with folded planes of perforated acoustic drywall and acoustic wood slats. Buff-coloured resilient sport flooring, with a minimum of complementary coloured lines, provides a durable base for high traffic and dining use. Three central skylights and an upper-level gallery, finished in wood with translucent white glass guards, provide directionality and focus to the maple-clad stage.

A luminous double-height volume, detailed with raked plaster walls and an incised cruciform window, offers a dedicated access to the hall. In counterpoint, a corner of the hall has been carved away to offer a glimpse of the lobby and its brilliant hues, symbolizing the Holy Spirit and the Light of the Soul within reach.