When the Northside Church in Clovis, California decided to reinvent their stretch of lawn as a dynamic new multi-purpose plaza, the primary goal was to create something special, whether it be for celebrating the birth of a child, affirming one’s faith or for friends and family gatherings and church events welcoming one and all.

“In early conversations about the new entry plaza, the church’s goal was to provide a place for people to connect – to their faith and to one another,” says Terry Broussard, Principal with Broussard Associates, who led landscape architecture services for the redeveloped space in front of the church, which opened in September 2016. The new multi-purpose plaza accommodates a wide range of church functions ranging from large-group baptismal weekend services and small-group prayer studies. Broussard believes that effective landscape architecture ought to positively impact the way people live, work, play and pray and strives to mix architecture, horticulture, engineering and art into a single practice.

“The church was committed to the idea of creating a space that invited others in. Thinking of those who might not be attracted to traditional churches was key.” To expand the range of interest and energize the plaza during daily use, The Frappe House, a new handcrafted coffee shop was built animating the baptismal pool and amphitheater seating. In all, the plaza design objectives were to connect the church’s primary entrance, the youth ministry center next door and the coffee shop while also servicing individual and group baptismal celebrations in a harmonious space.

“This plaza really has a lot of interesting programming possibilities beyond the baptismal space,” says Broussard. The design blends a lot of forms and walls, rock work and fire pits, along with both integrated and moveable seating choices. Roll up garage doors and roughhewn raw materials fill The Frappe House to capture contemporary design sensibilities common to many chain coffee shops. “The whole design has a more progressive, culturally relevant feel than church spaces do traditionally.”

The challenge was in working to accommodate a diverse program of possible uses and group sizes. Baptismal weekend services might be attended by a hundred or more while weekday bible study may engage only a handful of teens after school. Appropriate exterior spaces that accommodate many different groups and purposes also had to be fit into a relatively small area tucked between three structures of independent functions. Creating harmonious connections throughout the plaza while having a modern, socially contemporary design aesthetic led Brussard to the use of curvilinear patterns spiraling out from the baptismal pool in the center of the design. Radiating outward, the patterns form seating areas, viewing sections and gathering spaces as the plaza steps up from the baptismal pool toward each building. The use of curves allows the energy of each space to easily be focused on either the main building it serves or conversely toward the center during baptisms. The key to tying it all together, Broussard shares was in the primary hardscape choice – decorative concrete.

Broussard took the clients to see several different decorative concrete projects and then introduced them to Heritage Bomanite. The final scope of work included 41,000 square feet of flat work, 650 lineal feet of walls, and some 4,000 square feet of  the Bomanite custom polished concrete Patene Teres System in The Frappe House. Northside Christian Church ended up selecting a combination of the Bomanite Exposed Aggregate Systems; Sandscape Refined Antico finish in Bomanite Light Brown, and Bomanite Sandscape Texture  in three colors to get the cohesive yet varied look they wanted in order to connect the exterior spaces.