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Memphis, Tennessee - For: TMA Architects


"1982 Engineering Excellence Award" from the Consulting Engineers Council of Georgia

"Outstanding Engineering Project, 1980-1981" from the Georgia Society of Professional Engineers.

Published in "Modern Steel Construction," 1983 issue


Situated on 34-acre site, Central Church consists of a 5,000-seat sanctuary, offices, a 150-seat choir loft, baptistery, orchestra, kitchen, nursery, fellowship hall and 35 classrooms for a total of 105,200 sq.ft. Its four-story circular design insures efficient internal circulation, as well as convenient accessibility to surrounding parking areas.


Design Criteria:

The structural design criteria required the engineer to develop a clear-span roof structure for the sanctuary, which would be compatible with, and enhance, the aesthetics of the building. To create a religious atmosphere and retain a feeling of human scale, one would focus on a centrally located pulpit while seated in the column-free sanctuary. Ceilings ascend up towards the center of the sanctuary where a skylight is situated. This design provides natural light and enhanced aesthetic efforts. Criteria also included the structural design of adjoining classrooms, offices, malls and other related spaces, plus provisions for future expansion.


Engineering Solutions:

  1. A 197-ft clear-span structure over a circular sanctuary is constructed of 16 radially arranged trusses, which vary in depth from 7ft-6in. at the eave to 30 ft at the peak. Both the top and bottom chords of the trusses slope up toward the center of the sanctuary, which creates a structure resembling an " inverted morning glory." Clear height at the center of the building is 56 ft.
  2. No exterior tension ring could be provided to resist the outward thrust created by the upward sloping bottom chord. Therefore, the roof itself was designed as a totally self-stabilized freestanding structure.
  3. A 30-ft diameter skylight was made at the center and extends upward into a 25-ft high cupola that supports the 90-ft cross above
  4. Vertical x-bracing was needed for the structural framing system. However, the locations of the bracings coincided with the location of fixed stained glass windows. To satisfy structural and aesthetic requirements, a specially designed connector resembling a cross was provided. This satisfied structural needs and was aesthetically pleasing.
  5. The ceiling was sculpted to reflect the structural framing system, producing an elegant, cost-effective solution.
  6. An attic space with catwalks permitted service access to ceiling lights, audio equipment, HVAC and other mechanical equipment.
  7. The roof system was extended radially outward from the sanctuary, with more conventional framing used to encompass various two to four-story classrooms, office spaces and 30-ft mall areas.
  8. The floor was a conventional composite construction, which proved to be both sturdy and cost-effective. In addition to its magnitude, the roof-structure over the sanctuary is unique in itself. A soaring cross on the 30-ft open skylight in the center of the huge roof express the designer's boldness and imagination.

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