How a young architect designed the country’s largest worship center

Daniel Go was a young architect in 2006 when he sensed the Lord’s calling to design the largest worship center for an Evangelical Christian church in the Philippines. “It was very challenging. I felt that God has brought me up for this work,” Go says in an interview. 

Go, the principal architect of ADGO Architecture and Design Inc., says God prepared him to be an architect for the most important task of designing Christ’s Commission Fellowship Worship and Training Center, a 10-story ministry building on a 2.3-hectare lot at the corner of E. Rodriguez Jr. Ave. (C5) and Ortigas Ave. in Pasig City.

He accepted the Lord’s challenge and spent the next seven years in designing and erecting CCF Center, whose main worship auditorium has a seating capacity for 10,000 people, making it the largest venue for worship in the country. Two levels of cantilevered balconies, with an average length of 16 meters and in a radial form, were incorporated into modular layout, to provide an unobstructed view of the auditorium.

“So the challenge was how we put the 10,000 people together, who would come in during a one-hour window, but will all leave within a 15-minute window,” says Go, who graduated from the University of Santo Tomas’ College of Architecture with a degree in BS Architecture in 1989.  CCF holds three worship services every Sunday, with each service attended by 10,000 people.

No structure of such kind has been erected in the country before and Go at the time had no portfolio of projects of similar magnitude which he could present to win the contract.  The fact that he got the design contract for CCF Center is a proof that God works in mysterious ways, he says.

The building, which was completed in April 2013, hosted the “Unstoppable” Tour in Manila of Australian Christian Evangelist and motivational speaker Nicholas James “Nick” Vujicic on May 18 of the same year and the Global Discipleship Congress 2013 the following week, which was attended by more than 10,000 Christian leaders from all corners of the world.

“I felt that as I was doing this for almost six and a half to seven years, God was leading me and grew me up ever since I was a kid in preparation for this job He is giving me,” he says.  “That is the burden that God has given me to be able to share what He has made me go through in order to help other churches, not only for CCF.”

Go spent three years to design CCF Center.  Construction of the 48-meter high building with a total floor area of 87,000 square meters began in January 2009.  Aside from the 10,000 seat auditorium, it has 48 classrooms that can accommodate 3,000 persons, gymnasium and fitness center, cafeteria, book store, outdoor amphitheater, multi-purpose hall and office and training rooms.

The façade incorporates simple lines and geometric patterns, and together with a combination of composite cladding, natural concrete finish and energy-saving glass panels, enhance the modern design approach. Its prayer tower gives a visual impression of a cross that is lifted above the structure.

CCF Center has three grand lobbies to accommodate the flow of the masses in between worship services or seminars. They also allow the congregation and visitors to enjoy the view of the landscaped garden in front of the building.

Go says of the 2.3-hectare lot, the building now occupies 1.5 hectares.   “We just used up about 1.5 hectares, then leave the 800,000 square meters for future development, which is what I am going to do now,” he says.

CCF is an Evangelical Church with 40,000 members founded by Dr. Peter Tan-Chi.  It began as an Evangelistic home Bible study at Brookside Subdivision in Cainta, Rizal in 1982. The Bible study grew and moved to San Juan City and met at the Asian Institute of Management for their first Sunday worship service and launched “Christ’s Commission Foundation” in August 1984.

From AIM, CCF services moved to Greenbelt in Makati City, then to the Conference Room of the Philippine International Convention Center, and then to the PICC Plenary Hall. 

CCF’s worship services transferred to St. Francis Square in Ortigas Center in 1997, before moving to their own worship and training center on C5. As of 2013, CCF had 38 satellite outreaches within the Philippines, and eight international outreaches, with 46 congregations composed of 40,000 members.

“CCF has been going from a few hundred members to thousands.  We are now celebrating our 29th anniversary, but the church never owned its property or facility.  It started in a house, moved to AIM, then to PICC, then to City Garden Restaurant, and Saint Francis, where they rented before this one,” says Go.

“The leaders and pastors of the church have decided that it is time to own their own place,” he says. 

Through the contribution of CCF members, many of them businessmen and professionals, the congregation has raised a significant amount to acquire a lot and erect a building.  They initially considered a one-hectare lot across the Asian Development Bank headquarters in Ortigas, the remaining large vacant lot in the area.

“Ortigas said may be you can consider another.  So they proposed this location [C5], but all the Tiendesitas property is not for sale and is for long-term lease.  CCF said we will only transfer on the condition that  you have to sell the property to us, which they did.  This is 2.3 hectares, twice the size of the lot near ADB, at one third of the price,” Go says.

Go recalls having initially hesitated to join the bidding for the project as he was not among the architects who submitted the design proposals.

“God works in mysterious ways.  So we got this property and finally, in 2006, the church board decided to build a church.  At that time, I was already a member of the church and got involved in the renovation of Saint Francis [worship center], the one they were using. At first, I did not want to join the competition, because I said I was young and was just starting, with no big buildings to be proud of and say I have accomplished,” he says.

Pastor Tan-Chi then asked Go to sit as a member of the selection committee to choose the architect of the building, a task that he agreed to perform. 

“On the first day of presentation, as the first architect was speaking, in the first five to 10 minutes, my heart was stirred. I can sense that the Lord was speaking to me and said ‘you know that this is the project that I want to give to you, why is it that you don’t want to participate?’  I was really convicted,” says Go.

“I can still remember the scene and everything.  It is as if there is a light from above and the Lord was asking me why I did not join.  Before the 10 minutes was up, I leaned over Pastor Peter and for some reason asked if I can inhibit myself and exit as I will not sit as one of the jury to choose the architect.  He asked why? I said I am convicted.  I will join.  I will make my drawings and I will participate.  I will try to come up with a design for the project.  I stepped out from there.  I went straight to the office and I held a meeting with my people.  I shared with them I was convicted and I was spoken to,” he says.

The CCF committee gave Go one month to prepare and meet the criteria.  “In choosing the architect, they had two criteria. Either you make the drawing or show your present credentials.  So every week, there were four or five big architects who presented their credentials.  For me, I just cannot present my credentials because I had nothing to show.  I was just a young starting architect.  So I asked my team to make a design and a presentation. We did our best and we came up with a design.  We presented it when the slot was given to us,” he says.

Go’s team was among the two companies that ended in the short list.  The other one is a high-profile architectural firm, which did not only present their credentials but also came up with the design.

Go says he made a simple presentation under time constraints.  “It was a simple presentation for me.  For some reasons, I would say it was by God’s grace, not because I was talented.  It turned out that the design we made is what they wanted.  They saw the benefit of it.  That’s what they liked.  The other architect designed the whole structure with the auditorium on the upper part of the building.  My design is that multipurpose halls will be on the ground floor while the main church will be on the second floor.  I was thinking of how you can move 10,000 people up many floors, so I cannot put the church on a higher floor.  They saw the merits of my design solutions,” he says.

“I can still remember the [committee] chairman asking me this question: what has been your biggest project so far?  So I said to be honest with you, I don’t have a big project that I could show to you except for some, the highest of which is a seven-story building...But what I can tell you is this.  There is nothing that the other architect can do that I cannot do.  If I be given the break, you have my commitment that I will be focused, that I will give everything to this project.  And so, they asked me to step out and deliberated for about 30 minutes,” he says.

“I was told not to go home.  I stayed.  After 30 minutes, I was called back in.  When I got in, the chairman told me, off the record, you will be receiving a formal letter.  I am just pleased to tell you that the board, the selection committee had decided to award the project to you. At that moment, when I first got in, I had adrenalin rush.  I was so happy, because I got the project. At the same time, there was that fear of delivery,” he says.

Go says despite the huge challenges and requirements, his team delivered and completed the design in three years and oversaw the construction for another three years.

“It took me seven years, seven long years until the project was finished.  It is till being maintained.  It took me three and a half years to design the whole building and three years to construct,” he says.

“I had no foreign consultants.  They did not hire a foreign consultant to give me the concept.  I had to do the whole thing from scratch.  It was very challenging. [But] I felt that God has brought me up and prepared me for this,” he says.

He says following the completion of CCF Center, his company drew a lot of attention for its design capability.  Among them is a businessman, who had visited the CCF Center.

“When he saw CCF Center, he told Pastor Peter this is fantastic.  It is beautiful.  Who is your architect?  Who is your foreign consultant?  Pastor Peter said we did not have foreign consultant.  Everything was done by Architect Go.  Then the businessman said can you introduce me to him. I want to meet him,” he says.

Go says he recently bagged the contract to design a shopping mall for the businessman.

“I was very thankful to CFF for giving me this project because it gave me the opportunity to do something different, something that has never been done before, and done by a local architect and without foreign concepts. God gave me this honor and privilege of designing this building and after this, He opened the floodgates of blessings for me,” says Go.

“A big break is what we need.  And God gave me this big break,” he says.

Go says the country’s largest worship center was built through the donation and free services of its members.  “In my gratitude to God for choosing me, I said Lord I dedicate this project to honor you.  It is a life-time commitment,” he says. RTD




Topics: Church , CCF , architect
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