New Building Questionnaire Results

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Chestnut Hill Meetinghouse Questionnaire
James Bradberry Architect

Out of 52 people polled (note not everyone answered all questions):

1A. What qualities do you feel make a space inspirational and spiritual?

Simplistic beauty and elegance 29

Natural and comfortable lighting 21

Acoustics (quiet, able to hear others) 14

Spaciousness, openess 13

Views of nature 9

Coziness, comfort, intimacy 9

Natural materials 9

Color 5

Accessibility 2

Symmetry Order Hearth/fireplace Coolness Safe Love2

Additional Comments:

The general consensus expressed a need for simplicity but not coldness; minimal colors, patterns, and adornment; Japanese Temple inspiration (inward inspiring and provoking as opposed to awe inspiring and imposing) mentioned; "warmth, in the sense that the space could be a space of consolation, but coolness, in a way that goes along with the hush and sense of being small" --Amey Hutchins

2A. Are there other Meetinghouses that particularly appeal to you? Why?


Older and historic meetings in surrounding area 5

Gwynedd - light 45

4th and Arch St/15th and Cherry/Race St./Green St. - historic meeting houses of Philadelphia etc 3

Seattle Friends - circular seaing, greenery, natural wood, easy/quiet entry 2

Worship Room at Friends of Washington DC - natural light, high ceiling 2

Additional Comments:

Westbury Meeting House (Long Island); Purchase MM (NY); Willistown; Horsham Friends Meeting; Barn at Pendle Hill; Newtown Friends; Milwaukee; Bethesda; Abington Friends; Chapel Hill (NC); Ithaca College Chapel; Media Friends Meeting; Live Oaks Meeting (Houston); Frankford MM; George School; Swarthmore Meeting; Byberry Meeting; Cambridge Meeting,

3A. Are there Meetinghouses that do not appeal to you? Why?

Germantown - too large, bad acoustics, barn 17

4th and Arch - flourescent lights, too large, two tier system 8

Plymouth Meeting MM - cramped 3

Gwynned MM - too dark, large meeting rooms 2

Green St. - ceiling too high, bad acoustics, too linear 2

CHMM - low ceilings, tight quarters 2

Doylestown MM - cramped  

Middletown Meeting (Bucks County) - direct entry to meeting from parking is impersonal and not special

Frankford MM - same reason as above

Wilmington Friends Meeting - celings too high to hear 

4A. Are there other religious/spiritual sites that particularly appeal to you? Why?

Japanese temples, tea houses, and other Asian temples 4

Old monasteries, cathedrals and churches 3

St. Pauls Chestnut Hill (Episcopal Church) - warm woodwork, trusses 2

Additional Comments:

New England Churches; St. Deep Run Presb; Taj Mahal; Chapel of St. Ignatius (Seattle Univ); Old Swedes Church; Chapel at Cape May (NJ); Sistine Chapel; Chapel in Chimago (New Mexico); Unitarian Center of Princeton; Meditation Room at Omega (NY); Church of the Savior (Wayne); Saarinen Chapel (MIT); Ronchamp; Sainte-Chappelle (Paris); Phil. Ethical Culture Center; Libraries; Zendo (Green Gulch @ Muir Beach, CA)

5A. If you could use three adjectives to describe CHMM, what would they be?

In response to CHMM people/meetings:

Friendly, welcoming, open 11

Warm 11 Loving, caring 8

Active, lively 9

Community 4

Spiritual, faithful 4

Conflicted, drifting in opinion 3

Committed 4

Growing 3

Additional Comments:

Beautiful, Informal, Peaceful, Seeking, Joyful, Passionate, Healthy, Strong, Earnest, Tolerant, Profound, Funky, Intellectual, Timeless, Moderate, Intense, Busy, Concerned, Involved, Busy, Noisy, Cosmopolitan, Secular, Dynamic, Humorous, Simple, Intimate, Respectful

In response to CHMM meeting house:

Intimate, cozy 8

Simple, unadorned 8

Cramped, limited, stuffy 4

Natural, green 3

Inadequate storage 2

Additional Comments:

Calm, Quiet, Old, Ungainly, Yellow, Functional, Gloomy, Dirty, Small, Warm, Uncluttered, Classic, Well proportioned

6A/7A. What problems can you identify with the current Meetinghouse that need to be addressed in the new Meetinghouse? Are there any activities that need new or differenty types of spaces in the new Meetinghouse?

  1. Main consensus is that meeting rooms are too small especially to house community activities. Need for expandable/flexible space during busy times. Many mentioned for the First Day School (FDS) and separate rooms for them. More spaces for children such as personal alcoves or day care space. Introduction of multipurpose room with seating for 150 with stage, microphones, screens. Accomodations for that groups staying overnight. Also addition of area for posted announcements and art displays.
  2. Most think entrance and access is inadequate. Access from the street is difficult. Lack of accessibility especially ADA. Entrance too small and often blocked. Need for more entries perhaps.
  3. Need for better organization of spaces. Currently greeted by the kitchen, newcomers are often unsure where to go. Bad circulation, benches are too close.
  4. Storage seems to be a major problem. Need for better storage throughout especially for tables, chairs, and other equipment for daily and seasonal. Storage for FDS equipment needed. Often renters need storage. More closets needed.
  5. Bathroom facilities are inadequate and outmoded. Many request separate showers. Too small and too few and not ADA. Water fountains needed, indoor and outdoor. Need to accommodate for children and infants.
  6. Kitchen outmoded. Inadequate storage. Stove burners do not work properly. Too small and needs better organization, current workflow poor. Increase counterspace, however keep the main multiuse steel table in the middle.
  7. Many mention bad acoustics, lacks soundproofing
  8. Need for better playground equipment and outside gathering space. Need for bycicle parking.
  9. Poor ventilation
  10. Needs washer and dryer space
  11. Need to update elecrical power, plugs and ports
  12. Introduction of library. Comfortable chairs and tables for meetings or just to read. Some mention need for non institutional space, one that is homier.
  13. Add possible computer room
  14. Inadequate energy use. Make green.
  15. Mention of Gwynned Friends' addition and using it as an example.
  16. A small amount of people think that the exg space is sufficient and that improvements should be made to energy, maintenance, materials, and refurbishment of exg building. Mention that current proportions are good but need wider aisles. One person did not support motel type space to support NWIFHN and Quaker overnight gatherings. Keep adaptations modest.
  17. Visitor name tags and books, info kiosk

1B. If you could use three adjectives to describe the existing Meeting Room, what would they be?

See 1A and 5A. Most answers the same.

2B. What aspects of the existing Meeting Room should be considered in new one?

See 1A and 6A/7A. Most answers the same.

Most feel need for more space and flexibility, seating, better circulation, wider aisles, ADA, better acoustics and soundsystem, and less disruptive way of entry for latecomers and people leaving, keep fireplace.

Climate control and ventilation, operable windows

Wood floors

Better color selection

Higher ceilings

Natural lighting

Views outside

Square or round layout as opposed to long axis (one person)

3B. Do you have an opinion on whether to keep the exg benches?

Keep old benches 21

No opinion 7

New benches 16

Additional Comments:

Most mentioned need for comfort esp for those with back problems. Request for wider benches with stable cushions. Many feel that old ones kept may be reused elsewhere, not necessarily for meeting room. Concern that current benches are not adequate in number. Mention of selling old benches or giving away. Some feel new building, new benches so that they match. Others feel it is a good way of commemorating and connecting to the past. Still others feel that mixing old and new is best. Others want continuity. Seem pretty evenly split. Mention of rocking chairs and alternate seating.

4B. Do you have an opinion on seating arrangements for the Meeting Room?

Rows of benches facing same direction 0

Half facing other half 24

Tiered benches 3

Inwardly focused 3-sided 28

Inwardly focused 4-sided 29

Perimeter benches 7

Unsure 4

Additional Comments:

Seem conflicted on tier or no tier system, access issues, but better view, circular mentioned facing inwards and perimeter benches

5B. Do you feel it is important to design the Meeting Room to fit a particular seating arrangement or should the proportions of the room be able to accommodate multiple arrangements?

Meeting room should accommodate numerous arrangements 25

Meeting room designed to fit seating arrangement 10

Unsure 1

6B. Is it important to have a fireplace in the new Meeting Room? What about an environmentally friendly fireplace/stove?

Important 36

Not important 7

No opinion 4

Additional Comments:

Most want environmentally friendly fireplace. Not stove. Something simple and not too overbearing. Some want fireplace but not necessary to be in meeting room.

7B. Do you envision the membership of the Meeting growing? If so, what seems to be an appropriate size?

Yes 20

Unsure 6

No 4

Optimum size:

176-200 62

151-175 12

126-150 32

100-125 62

200% 12

150% 12

25-50% increase 72

less than 25% 12

Keep current size 2

Additional Comments:

Almost everyone agrees that the meeting will grow but are unsure as to how much. Many did not answer the second portion of the question, citing only that membership will grow and the need for flexibility. Some mention splitting to two meetings instead of changing size.

8B. How many people should the Meeting Room accommodate? Do you have an opinion on the potential loss of intimacy if it gets larger? Do you have an opinion on an expandable Meeting Room?

Strong favor for expandable Meeting Room that may be moved without too much disruption for larger crowds

Significant concern for loss of intimacy

Most feel 150 +/- 25 is appropriate

9B. How important is literal silence and total lack of distraction to you? Do you have an opinion on the Gather Room doors and windows?

Silence important 14

Not important 12

Doors shut 3

Doors open 3

Additional Comments:

Face Meeting Room toward park to minimize main sounds from street. Concern over routine noise from meeting house (toilets flushing, phones, chatter, air conditioning). Main consensus expressed that noise is natural part of world and should be kept, unrealistic to eliminate all sounds, just minimize it. No significant concern for moving windows higher up.

10B. Larger windows and more light

Yes 35

No 8

Additional Comments:

Concern over too much light and glare, heat issues and views outside. Most expressed that larger windows viewing nature would be beautiful, ideal, and welcoming.

1C. Do you have an opinion where the new Turrell installation should be located?

No preference 14

Meeting Room 8

Entryway 4

1st Day School Area 1

Centered 1

Exterior 1

Not familiar 7

Additional Comments:

Preference for installation using natural rather than artificial light. Not be too overwhelming or distracting. Should only be in Meeting Room if it "makes an impact." Some don't want any artwork in the meetingroom. One person against roof opening. Mention of having it high up "heavenward." Many express more info is needed to make an informed decision.

2C. How would you feel about extending it outdoors onto the site and landscape?

Yes 34

Unsure, no opinion 6

No 1

3C. How would you feel about opening the installation to the public at certain times?

Yes 37

No 4

Additional Comments:

Concern for security and hours as well as hiring a caretaker if it is in the meeting room.

1D. If you could use three adjectives to describe the landscape of the future Meetinghouse, what would they be?

Natural 18

Peaceful 9

Low maintenance 10

Green 8

Private 2

Inviting 6

Beautiful 5

Simple 3

Shading 2

Accessible 2

Modern Harmonious Intimate Child friendly 

2D. Do you want outdoor spaces for weddings and other events? Should there be an area for a tent? What other functions should be accommodated?

Play area 19

Exterior sitting area/classroom space 13

Picnic/barbeque area 10

Wedding/memorial 8

Meditation 5

Tent area 6

Labyrinth 3

Outside terrace/porch Parking for bikes Ampitheater Recycling 

Additional Comments:

Unanimous need for outdoor activity spaces. Mention of planned roof areas or movable awnings as opposed to tents. Natural outdoor lounge. Most simply replied yes. Mention of SEPTA stops and benches. Keep blacktop parking small?

3D. There are also symbolic uses of the landcape: a setting for the building, a sense of arrival and entrance, transition from busy world to sanctuary. Should there be a quiet area on the site for that symbolism?

Yes 30


Additional Comments:

Mention of labyrinth. Covered porch. Mention of student model made. Entrance that is somewhat removed from the meeting room itself. Possibility of making it open to public during the week.

4D. What other uses would you like to see on the site itself?

Green roof 11

Pond/waterfall 7

Meditation space 2

Recycling 2

Small cabin 2

No 3

Additional Comments:

Must be cost effective and low maintenance. The more green the better. Safety hazard of pond and fencing it off.

5D. Do you have an opinion about where the new Meetinghouse should be located on the site?

Near hillside 12

Away from Mermaid Lane 5

Toward Mermaid Lane 2

Away from Germantown 2

entered 1

Additional Comments:

Consider traffic flow. Should be sited to look welcoming and open. Should be well lit. Connection to natural landscape, God, etc. Accessible. More info needed.

6D. Would you consider extensions of the natural landscape into the Meeting landscape using plants native to Chestnut Hill?

Yes 38

Other Notes:

Must be cost effective. Use of native plants

1E. How do you categorize your own opinion along the spectrum of environmental standards?

  1. The new building should be designed to current building and energy codes. 0
  2. The building should incorporate special energy saving and environmental solutions the cost of which could be recovered in a reasonable period of time. 16
  3. As a witness to our testimony regarding the environment, the building design should strive for a high level of energy efficiency and environmental sustainablility, while still being fiscally responsible31

1F. Are there particular building materials that you feel are important to consider for the Meetinghouse?

Stone 11

Wood 7

Brick 3

Stucco 4

Additional Comments:

Mentioned use of stainless steel, recycled materials, cement clapboard, plaster. Mention of no plasterboard, Wissahickon schist?, shingles, no dryvit, no wood framing FLW mentioned. Easy maintenance a must. Built to last. Mention of well.

2F. What type of visual impact do you think a new meetinghouse should present?

Inviting, open 24

Simple 6

Discrete 5

Welcoming 4

Spare Modern Alluring Natural 

3F. If the project were phased, what activities should be in the first phase? Do you forsee difficulties in operating on two sites?

Do not phase 11

Phase meeting room first 6

Do not separate FDS and meeting 4

Phase FDS first 2

FDS in old, meeting house in new 2

FDS in new, meeting house in old 1

Phase Turrell installation first 1

Additional Comments:

Use current building for meetings, renting, space for young adult activites. Inclements of weather and working on two sites. Parents away from children. Difficult for handicapped.

4F. Should the aesthetic character of the building be similar to the present Meetinghouse? How would you feel about a more modern one?

New aesthetic 21

Keep existing aesthetic 8

5F. To what extent should the plan and organization of the meetinghouse be designed to accommodate potential uses by other organizations that have special needs?

Support 21

Do not support 10

Additional Comments:

Consideration for day care, Mt. Airy Learning Tree, AA. Small music groups may use it (chamber music). Accommodate without jeopardizing worship. Main argument for those against is that the activities may change in the future.

1G. Additional comments

Input about future/potential uses of exg building not addressed

Fiscal responsibility issue has not been addressed

Mention of landscape given primary attention

Creation of frog refuge?

Provide space for performance by fundraisers, community use, and member private use.

Anticipate livein caretaker/office secretary