South Christian High School
- Byron Center, MI
- Completed 2018
- Building Area: 170,000 sq. ft.
- Builder: Dan Vos Construction
- Delivery: Construction Manager
Design Anchored in Faith
We believe great design begins with a deep understanding of our clients. When AMDG was asked to master plan and design a new building for South Christian High School, we focused on the entire school community. The result is an innovative space that makes its mission visible to students, parents, staff, and all who visit. And we couldn’t have done it alone.
“AMDG does not start designing until they are sure they have listened. They are relentless in the pursuit of understanding the needs of their clients. They consistently deliver delightfully surprising solutions to complex problems.”
– Jim Peterson, Former Head of School, South Christian High School
Before creating a single sketch, we began with a deep dive. The goal was to understand barriers to learning and what was life giving, while providing a forum for exploring new possibilities. Through a process of national benchmarking, intensive visioning workshops, and listening deeply to the thoughts of staff members ranging from theater to athletics to inclusion specialists, as well as students of all ages, parents, alumni, donors, and feeder schools, we were able to begin imagining how physical space can support a learning community anchored in faith.
Several businesses connected to South Christian donated their expertise to the new school. Whether providing construction, concrete, drywall, or roofing, companies that often compete for bids worked side-by-side. With AMDG guiding the process and calling upon the right expertise at the right time, the final product is a reflection of many talents working toward a shared vision.
Engaging the Student
The best way to understand how high school students express their faith is to start with the students themselves. AMDG invited student groups ranging from special education to social justice to the softball team to contribute design ideas to visually articulate the school’s mission. Today, the school has a dramatic pillar of fire, a unique prayer bench, and a wall that evolves over time to depict creation, man’s fall, and redemption; all to nurture and encourage faith.
21st CENTURY LEARNING
Committed to the 21st Century skills of collaboration, communication, creativity and critical-thinking, South Christian’s new building was designed with flexibility in mind. Using glass and movable walls, classrooms adapt to the needs of its users, support passive supervision and promote interconnection. Common spaces provide opportunities for collaboration and communal activities, while flexible seating encourages peer to peer and hands-on learning. By designing with the future in mind, SCHS’s new facility positions teachers and students powerfully to meet the demands of today and tomorrow.
Why hide the learning process? Many of South Christian’s classrooms feature glass curtain walls to reveal the beautiful mess inherent in forming young minds. Tackable surfaces, showcases and blank palettes were also incorporated in the design to celebrate student work.
AMDG designed a rotunda to embrace one of the school’s four pillars: Community Building. With doors that open to an outdoor amphitheater during the warmer months, the space feels just right for meetings with two or three people, or larger gatherings when the school comes together for singing, worship, announcements, and special occasions.
Serving as a venue for activities ranging from plays and musicals, to choral, band and orchestral performances, the South Christian High School auditorium is in constant demand. Featuring a recessed orchestra pit, raked seating, and balcony calipers to connect the audience with the performance, there isn’t a bad seat in the house.
“People from all over North America are struck with how intentional the design is. One educational leader commented, “There must be another facility like this out there but I have never seen it or anything close to it.”
Jim Peterson, Former Head of School, South Christian High School
PREPARING FOR THE NEXT 100
When moving out of a building that had been home for the last 60 years, South Christian High School needed a space that could meet its mission for the next 100 years. Students, parents, and teachers are already seeing the fruits of their vision. Every space enriches the way kids focus, learn, gather, worship, and grow in community. For the students it was designed to serve, South Christian High School is more than a building. It’s an anchor for the future.