How to Choose a Church Architect

There are three major parts that go into selecting an architectural firm to help your vision of your church come to life: Choosing who to interview, the request for proposal, and finally, the actual interview. Understanding these important steps can help you choose the architect that will suit your needs best. 

Choosing Who to Interview

Your best bet for choosing a church architect is to begin in the church. Talk to trusted members of the congregation, as they may know friends, family, or acquaintances in the business. But, you should certainly not depend just on the opinions of your friends and neighbors. Focus on finding an architect who specializes in the building of churches. The best place to look, of course, is at the churches in your locale. If you're particularly fond of the architecture of another church, speak to the clergy about who they'd hired for the job. You can also use the American Institute of Architects as a resource.  There, you can search through the database of award winning architects and their designs. 

As you're searching for the perfect candidates, keep in mind that you're after a certain kind of architecture, so church design experience is particularly important. Assure that you are able to view their portfolios or brochures, and that their references consider them to be worthwhile candidates. Specifically, ask references to discuss the firms' responsiveness, final building result, thoroughness, willingness to explain facets of the project, ability to meet budget goals, and whether they would be asked back for repeat work. As you narrow down your search, keep in mind that 3 firms should be on the interview list by the end of this initial process. 

Request for Proposal (RFP)

Once you've narrowed down your list to 3 solid options, it's time to for the RFP. Begin by requesting information from the firms, such as:

  • Name and address
  • Description of staff
  • Description of services
  • Brief history
  • Recently completed comparable projects
  • Resumes
  • References
  • Description of liability insurance
  • Company brochure

Gathering information about the firm's competence and skills should be completed  prior to the interview and will allow more time for the firm to show their personality. Fee structure should be openly discussed at this point, though it is not necessarily an indicator of the firm's value. 

The Interview

Finally, the interviews can begin. Interviews should take place over the course of no more than a week. This allows firms who will not be commissioned by you a chance to prepare for other projects. The interviews should be between 45 and 90 minutes and all building committee members should be present. 

Specific information that you should seek during the interviews includes:

  • Project approach
  • Cost estimate process
  • Budgetary compliance measures
  • Church building personal concepts
  • Acoustical success measures
  • Preliminary design fees
  • Engineering fees
  • Reimbursable items
  • Strong points
  • Project teams

Once you've pegged the firm that will be the best fit for you based on the answers to those questions, you're ready to begin the next step in the building of your church.