Seeking to minister to the disenfranchised and burnt-out, Riverbend Church’s leaders wanted to provide an alternative experience that felt different from those where their community members had once been “bruised, battered, broken, and bored.” This authentic alternative to mainstream Christianity struck a chord with a growing population, and soon the ministry was overflowing, in need of a facility to accommodate their thriving community. The new church facilities provide an ideal venue for a multitude of functions, but most importantly, create a safe and intimate space for those who consider it their church home.
They [Overland] have astonished me with their ability to carefully listen to our vague ideas of what we want, to ask us insightful questions and design something that exceeds our expectations.
In designing the worship space, Overland called on one of the oldest archetypes in the western world for inspiration. The sanctuary recalls a Greco-Roman amphitheater, with double-tiered, 175-degree seating. While acoustic engineering proved challenging in the intimate, circular space, Overland honored the priorities of the church. The design team paneled the back walls to control sound and still managed to keep all seating within 90 feet of the stage. Semicircular seating allows congregants to see each other during worship, creating a participatory and familial atmosphere.
The river provides an awe-inspiring backdrop for the stage, seen through 150-ft arched windows that speak to the arch of the Pennybacker Bridge in the distance. To control the light for televised services and other performances, the windows are carefully shaded to balance full sun streaming in the top with the shady oak canopy below.
Unconventional outreach efforts are integral to the mission of the church, and hosting concerts for a variety of artists is one way that the church can open its doors to those who might otherwise shy away. The stage is equipped to double in size, with theatrical lighting, a modified theatrical fly, and acoustics ideal for dramatic or musical performances. The Austin Symphony has performed their pops series at Riverbend, showcasing its versatility and capacity.
Set into a steep escarpment overlooking the Colorado River, the natural elements of the site informed the material palette and tone of the building, with warm wood, limestone, and sandstone integrated throughout. The building seems to grow up from the steep slope, with entry points on different levels to serve different needs. The church serves as a “home for hope” for the disenfranchised, and the facilities manifest in physical form the sense of openness and welcome that is imbued within the community.
- Faith and Form Magazine Millennium Design Award (Religious Architecture – New Facilities) 2001
- Builder Magazine Gold Nugget Award for Architectural Excellence 2000
- Illuminating Engineering Society International Illumination Design Merit Award 1999
- Architectural Design Award of Excellence 1998
- Associated General Contractors Austin Outstanding Construction Award 1998
- Texas Construction Magazine Best of Awards Architectural Design Award of Excellence 1998
- Architecture for the Gods, “Book 2 Volume 2,” February 2006
- Church and Worship Technology, “Visible Nature of Design,” November 2001
- Metal Architecture, “Metal Plays Role in Church’s Contemporary Design,” October 1998
- Austin American-Statesman, “Worship Center Debuts at Riverbend,” April 1998