More genius architectural choices


Remember that one time when I told you about my chapel, and how some lunkhead built a twelve-inch escape route for toddlers between the benches and the walls? I think they may have hired the same people to work on the building we attend church in now. There are no cattle chutes running along the outer walls, but whoever designed (and then selected) the pews has possibly never, ever attended church with a child. Ever. 

Get this--the pews all have this gap of about an inch or so where the bench seat (doesn't) meet the back. I do not know what the point of this gap is, but I know what happens as a result of it being there: anything that is placed or dropped on the bench (crayons, pens, crackers, toy cars) rolls toward the back of the seat and then falls through the gap onto the feet of the elderly person sitting behind you. Where you can't reach it. All. meeting. longSeriously. Who ever thought this was a good idea? What's next? Cutting holes into the benches so you can stick a little bucket in there and use it to collect trash and napkins like they do at Joe's Crab Shack?

It's stuff like this that makes me think we need to do better at getting the input of the people who will actually be using the building & its furniture. Problems like the cattle chute and the bench gaps would be identified immediately if you had some real people sit on the things for 15 seconds. It seems like so many of these decisions are made by people who are so far removed from the trenches that they either don't know or can't remember the potential challenges they are either not addressing or sometimes creating.

Another example? Church buildings that have changing stations in the women's bathrooms but not in the men's. Why don't they both have them? Not only is that sexist (what, changing diapers is just for women?) but quite impractical. A lot of fathers take care of babies during church. GH had the Tiny Dark Lord while I was in Primary from the time he was three months old, but the only changing table was in the women's bathroom. He changed diapers on the floor in busy hallways, outside on the lawn (in good weather), or, if the  messy diaper happened close enough to the end of church, just took the kid home.

Can anybody else give me some examples of design fails in their church buildings? (Or work buildings, or whatever?) Would love to hear them.

Note: I realize that the pioneers did not have changing tables in their church buildings. Sometimes they probably didn't even have buildings, just poles that they set up and draped with fabric or rattlesnake skins or something. So they are probably looking down on me now like, "What is her deal?" Well, pioneers, it is called an advance in the standard of living, and I thank you for making it possible. It's like John Adams said. You crossed the plains and gave birth to babies in handcarts so that I could sit in my air-conditioned chapel and gripe about poorly designed pews.


Sherry said... [reply]

Our pews have that obnoxious hole too! Maybe it is there because otherwise that little crevice just gets full of nasty crumbs that are hard to clean out?

I have a brother-in-law and sister-in-law who live right by the brand new Kansas City Temple, and their building was built as a proto-type of future buildings. After attending for a few weeks they got to participate in a meeting with some designer person to tell them all the things they like and dislike about the building. It's designed in such a way that it can be gradually added upon. So at first it can serve a small branch, but eventually it can be a stake center or regular building. That's the idea. Of course, theirs was built all at one time and is a stake center. My sister-in-law let them know all the problems she had with the building.

Kelly said... [reply]

That hole in the back of the pew is insane! Who thought that was a good idea?

I really hate the practice of continuing the carpet up onto the bottom half of the wall. Is that an acoustics thing? Heaven forbid a Mormon church have any sort of reverb! Sometimes it's not carpeting, though, it's this rough, strawlike substance that I would think would take the skin right off the cheek of any toddler unlucky enough to run into it.

As for my current building, it's just completely non-functional, since it's a repurposed Greek Orthodox Church (that actually looks more like a bank) in ghetto Rhode Island. I don't even complain anymore.

Liz Johnson said... [reply]

Our mother's lounge is literally a closet. It is barely big enough for two chairs, and even those hit each other if they're not positioned perfectly. There is no changing table anywhere in the building (SERIOUSLY). It's super obnoxious. Even though I feel perfectly entitled to nurse in sacrament meeting, I would frankly rather not, because I don't want me or my baby to be kicked in the head by one of my other children. Oh, and the pews seem really small - our family of five can barely fit, and that's with nothing else on the pew.

And the cattle chute - RIDICULOUS. And if my pews had holes like that, I would probably just give up, man. It's like they're tying your hands, man!

Jonathon said... [reply]

We've got the gap between the bench bottom and back too. It's really only big enough for crayons to get through, but it's still annoying. But my biggest design problem is that the hallways are way too narrow. If two people stop to chat, it totally clogs the hall for all the people who are trying to get to class or go home. And the hall by the primary room in our current building is the worst—it's barely wide enough for two people to walk abreast. Definitely too narrow for mobs of parents getting their kids.

Rachel said... [reply]

I have no complaints about my current building, but our last church building didn't have windows in the nursery room doors. It made it very difficult to try and sneak a peek to see how my child was doing--EVERYONE (the leaders and the kids) would notice the door slowly creaking open if I tried to look inside to see what he was up to, including him, which meant I either had to beat a hasty retreat or just give up and never check to see what the heck went on in there. I love that our current building has the teensy windows at the top of the door--the kids never notice parents peeking in, but we can check to make sure they are doing okay (not to mention see how they interact with the leaders and other kids, and see what activities are going on in there). Now I no longer feel bad about dropping him off in nursery even though he screams and death-grips around my neck every single time, because I know that when I peek through the door 30 seconds later, he's completely forgotten me and is just playing and having a good time.

Rachel said... [reply]

Although, on the nursery room note, I've heard the leaders complain that the light switches are too low . . . the kids can reach the switches and flip them on and off for two hours. Strobe light nursery fun!

Stacy Averett said... [reply]

My current church building is on three levels, which means that the little girl who needs a wheelchair has to be carried around through most of the block. No one who has problems with stairs can get to the primary or youth rooms. If a child gets loose during sacrament meeting and decides to run laps upstairs, we can all hear them thumping overhead.

Don't even get me started on the lack of a reasonable mother's lounge in 9 of the 10 buildings I have attended. Or other changing facilities. Or a family restroom so my husband can be the one to take my daughters to the bathroom. Or the fact that no one under five feet tall can use any of the the drinking fountains or bathroom sinks. Or anything else that would justify the church's claim to be family-friendly. Sigh.

Kristen said... [reply]

Ah yes. The no changing table in the men's room gets to me. And then there's the moms changing super stinky toddler diapers in the tiny mother's lounge, leaving us all to nurse with the lingering stench (ours is a separate "room" from the bathroom). I think if your child isn't nursing you should be banned from the nursing lounge!! Hahaha.;)

Maggie said... [reply]

After having cleaned chapel pews that have the nastiest things in the crevice between the bench and the back I think having them separate isn't that bad. Seriously, why don't people check that when they leave after their meetings? Then when our family has a turn to clean we find things I'm not sure should even be in the chapel. At any rate, if I'm having to clean it (which I assume we all do have to at some point) then I want it easy to clean.

Kathryn said... [reply]

I understand about the gap in the pews because of what Maggie said.

The nastiest thing, though, was the nursing lounge in the women's bathroom. Like an inlet right inside the door with two chairs and separated by a hospital like curtain from the rest of the stinky bathroom.

The building I am currently in I really have no complaints about. There aren't really any bizarre design choices.

AmyJane said... [reply]

We have the gap in the benches in our current building. Here's what you do. You take the hymn books and wedge them into that gap side by side and make a little dam and then have the kid do their coloring and whatnot in that spot. Not perfect, but better than playing fetch through the whole meeting.

AmyJane said... [reply]

Also our building have a one seat nursing lounge. It's the stake center for TWO stakes, our ward has no less than 20 nursing babies, to say nothing of the two oth overlapping wards. I have made it my personal mission to medy the situation. Last month I submitted my plans to the stake. Bless them for not actually laughing in my face but they honestly have no clue. Men.

Nemesis said... [reply]

AmyJane, good for you! I await updates about your progress. And they'd better not laugh, or they should get used to women just whipping out boobs during all three blocks, then. Cuz, really, it's not like you can just wait in a line outside the nursing lounge like it's a ballpark bathroom.

The Atomic Mom said... [reply]

Our building was retrofitted with the same gappy benches you mentioned. It's a bear to clean in the chapel because of them. I tell you what...men designed them, end of story. They should only have women designing church facilities.

And since our building is 50+ years old we have a counter in the ladies room and somewhere along the way some one put a change table in the men's room. My husband says however, that if the baby is more than 2 yrs, or really tall, it's useless to even try in the men's room, not enough room.

MJ said... [reply]

When I lived with my in-laws, my FIL was the bishop and we just moved into a new building. The bathrooms have counters at the prefect height to vine little heads and had perfectly sharper corners and nothing under them. My then 18 month old baby ran straight into the corner and cut himself good. Blood everywhere.

The next week, a little girl walked into it, and it cut her.

When I told my FIL that the corners had better be shaved down or I'd do it myself, he actually told me that would be vandalism.

He may or may not have gotten an earful about how MY child and HIS grandchild was more important than a damn counter, not to mention every other kid in that building.

The counters were fixed that week.

emandtrev said... [reply]

I'm totally laughing at this. Not in a "haha" sort of way, but more of an "oh yes, I feel your pain, sister" sort of way. Our pews also have that 1-inch space. The only thing I can think of is so that nasty Cheerio/milk/Goldfish spills don't get stuck in there? Because, really...that is one cleaning headache I don't even want to think about. Otherwise, I have no idea why it is there.

Our church house DOES have a "family bathroom" with a woman/man sign out the door. And I love it. I send the dear hubs in there with our bebe and her dirty diapers fairly often. Send? Ask him nicely, I mean. Hee. It's nice to share diaper duty at church! :)

TheMoncurs said... [reply]

Both of the wards I've been in since I've been married have had abysmal mothers' room situations. And in both wards the women have demanded something be done about it. I am very proud of this fact.

jeri said... [reply]

Children, we are here to feel the Spirit, not to have light-switch raves!

Probably the pews in your ward were put in with economy in mind and not crayons. Or maybe the designer likes a healthy breeze on his bottom. You could totally put a blanket or something over the pew back/seat that makes a little pocket that catches all of your roll-away items.

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