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Design A.I.D.: Berean Presbyterian Church

Aid /ād/ (verb) - to help, assist, or support (someone or something) in the achievement of something

In response to the evolving public health crisis, the Community Design Collaborative is leveraging the creativity and problem-solving skills of its volunteers to meet the critical needs of nonprofit organizations that are serving vulnerable populations.

The Collaborative's mission is to ensure that high-quality design is accessible to everyone. To do that, we match nonprofit organizations with volunteer design professionals to provide pro bono preliminary design services. Our community-engaged design process typically takes six months to complete.

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, we created the Design Assistance In Demand (A.I.D) program, to tackle the urgent needs of nonprofit organizations that are on the front lines. Our Design A.I.D. Teams are configured to work quickly, with the goal of providing implementable designs in a week's time.

Berean Presbyterian Church


The Challenge

Our second Design A.I.D. effort was to help Berean Presbyterian Church plan for the reopening of the building. The historic church, located at the corner of Broad and Diamond Streets in North Philadelphia, serves as a community hub, providing space for community programs and activities as well as worship space for the congregation.

The Church was looking for a system of traffic flow and space usage that incorporated social distancing regulations while still maintaining a sense of welcoming and inspiration. We were asked to focus on their Fellowship Hall building, including Anderson Hall, where the worship services are typically held, its adjacent classroom/meeting spaces, and the multipurpose space and kitchen in the lower level.

Our team was tasked with creating inexpensive and quickly implementable design solutions to address issues related to circulation, use of space, seating/space layouts, visual cues, wayfinding strategies and beautifying spaces.

Design A.I.D. Team and Berean Staff Virtual Kickoff Meeting

The Process

Six volunteers across several design disciplines enthusiastically joined this Design A.I.D. Team. Coming together virtually, they jumped right in with a tour and discussion of the space provided by members of the Berean community.  The team brainstormed individually and then a few days later came together for an internal design review where they had an opportunity to receive feedback and input from other design professionals. 

Our volunteers took those initial ideas, incorporated feedback from the reviewers and compiled a package of solutions to offer Berean. The team then reconvened for a presentation of their concepts to the Berean members. The entire process, from kickoff to presentation took 8 days.

The Concepts

Our Design A.I.D Team provided a coordinated system of concepts addressing each of the spaces to be used upon reopening.  The system was broken into three main areas: Schedule and Social Distance logistics, Graphics and Wayfinding, and Interior Improvements and Beautification.

The team’s strategy started in the church foyer, utilizing it as a central location to provide direction to the church visitors with an enlarged calendar of events, color coded for ease of use. Traffic would be rerouted by directional signage and floor decals were proposed to indicate social distancing in each of the rooms. 

Color coded adjusted schedule coordinating meetings with locations to allow for wayfinding ease
Floorplan indicating safe social distancing capacity

To limit the number of people in the building, the suggestion was made to alter the monthly schedule to allow for only one or two meetings at the same time. It was also suggested to space meetings apart to allow for ample time to clean each room in between usage.

Beautifying strategies included fresh paint and a new lighting fixture for the foyer, stained glass window film for the door to Anderson Hall, and colorful graphic wall installations for Anderson Hall.  To carry the color coding system through the building, the Team suggested painting a bright stripe of color in each meeting room.  Windchimes, modular greenery and a gallery exhibiting the history of the congregation were suggested to bring more welcoming features to the building.

Floor decals bringing in Berean's logo and stained glass artwork

“We are so excited to be able to implement such a thorough and thoughtful plan! We can't wait to see the look on the members faces when they re-enter for the first time. Words are not enough to express our profound gratitude and joy! The work that was put in in such a short timeline speaks to your commitment and your love for what you do so well! ”
- Alison King, Clerk of Session

The Impact

For their first phase, Berean is moving forward with the team’s recommendations for painting, signage and visual cues including:

  • A color-coded monthly calendar with the church schedule
  • Wayfinding and informational elements including a branded floor mat, social distancing floor decals, and a color-coded building map
  • Informational and instructional signage for each room explaining COVID-related protocol

To help with execution, we provided coordinated graphics for printing, potential costs and sources for recommended materials, as well as pro bono painting services. The result is a design that is driven by, and branded to, Berean, bringing in elements that provide inspiration and foster a strong sense of community.

The Team

The Berean Design A.I.D. Team consisted of 6 experienced professionals including architects, interior designers and a cost estimator.

Boyd Project Controls – Firm Volunteer

Taylor Boyd – Cost Estimator

LRK – Firm Volunteer

Alex Bruce – Registered Architect

Lauren McIlvaine – Architecture Student

Christy Morin – Interior Designer

Moto Designshop – Firm Volunteer

Julie Morningstar – Registered Architect

Sabrena Wishart – Interior Design Student

Next Steps

The Collaborative continues to use the Design A.I.D. model to provide quick-response services to other nonprofit organizations during this unprecedented time. If you know of an organization in need, or if you would like to volunteer to be part of a Design A.I.D. Team, please contact the Collaborative’s Director of Design Services, Heidi Segall Levy. 



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