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Willow Creek North Shore

Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture

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dmadsen, hanley wood, llc

Project Name

Willow Creek North Shore


  • Adrian Smith
  • Gordon Gill

Room or Space


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Project Description

Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture (AS+GG) has designed the new Willow Creek North Shore, now under construction at the Glen, in Glenview, Illinois. The 72,000 square-foot Willow Creek North Shore was designed to feature a large 1200-seat, state-of-the-art auditorium in the center of the facility with administration offices, adult ministry spaces, educational classrooms for all ages, a café, and a large sky-lit preassembly area surrounding the main sanctuary. There will also be several gathering points throughout the building. Additionally, two open landscaped, elliptical-shaped courtyard spaces will bring natural light into the sanctuary and to the corridors accessing the classroom and office facilities.

Local construction group Glenn H. Johnson began construction in June 2015. Several months were dedicated to site works, which elevated the church by 5-8 feet from its original grade, creating a gentle plateau with views of the surrounding community. A large retention pond was also constructed near the entrance of Shermer Road, as well as surface parking for over 700 vehicles, and access drives to and from the site.

The new church will be accessed by two main entrances, each arriving into a spacious pre-function lobby, making the facility easy to navigate and less intimidating for new visitors.

“What was most important in the conceptual design of this building was to create a welcoming feeling and a diagram that was clear and understandable for both the first-time visitor as well as those who attend on a regular basis,” says AS+GG Design Partner Adrian Smith. “The gentle curve of the circulation paths allow occupants to flow through the space, while enjoying views of the outside.”

A youth group worship room, located at the north end of the building and facing opposite to the auditorium, will strengthen youth ministry activities, while the Harvest Café, located in front of the auditorium, will be used for more casual meetings and as a gathering space on Sundays for those who wish to watch the service on video screens. The café will have direct access to two landscaped courtyards that can be used for weddings, funerals, and other functions.

The design concept was inspired by the form of a mustard seed, a biblical reference that symbolizes the strong faith and fellowship of the congregation, as well as the connection the building will have to nature. The building’s elliptical shape was designed to strategically bring the experience of the outdoors inside to the occupants.

“The goal of the space was to have nature as the backdrop for every room,” said Willow Creek North Shore Lead Pastor Steve Gillen, “and to bring in a maximum amount of natural light.”

The use of natural light was imperative to the success of the design. Floor-to-ceiling windows that face out toward the campus and inward to the intimate courtyard will provide views and daylighting to most of the spaces. The building faces directly south, with a 15’ deep aluminum sunshade that protects the front of the building façade from direct sunlight.

Flexibility was also key in the design concept. For instance, administration offices will be used by the church’s dedicated staff Monday through Friday but will be available on the weekend for adult ministry services and can provide additional opportunities for classes, workshops, and fundraising activities.

Set to be completed in the fall of 2016, the new Willow Creek North Shore will be an innovative architectural landmark for the Village of Glenview and form an important place of community for its residents for years to come.
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