While down in Clearwater, Florida for a family Christmas Vacation, I had the opportunity to tour the new Flag Building, opened by the Church of Scientology in November. Although there have been a vast number of new Scientology church buildings opened in the past years, none has been even close to the scale of this building, it being the spiritual headquarters of the religion.
As I only brought my camera phone with me, my photos of course are relatively worthless compared to the full photo tour you can get on the Church’s site here, or on Freedom Magazine here. However, I did want to share some of my thoughts I had in touring the building.
The most obvious thing about the building is that it’s gorgeous, inside and out. The exterior lighting makes it a gorgeous building at night, and as such even rudimentary camera phone photos (like the above) came out great, as I marveled at the building while my kids ran around the new park adjacent to the Fort Harrison Hotel.
The building is physically stunning inside. The grand lobby is much more capacious than it seems in photos, and walking through reception I can’t stop feeling like I’m walking through a computer rendering – it has a space-age, surreal feel to it. However, the physical beauty of the building wasn’t really the element of it that struck me the most.
What struck me the most was how intensely purposeful every single last piece of the building was.
I’ve gotten a chance to work in, take services in, and tour around a great number of Churches of Scientology around the world. And a quality this building has that it shares with no other is that it was developed from the foundation to the roofing tiles for extremely exacting purposes, designed explicitly to allow for the delivery of Scientology services, and to facilitate the organization of a Scientology church.
Especially knowing a thing or two about how a Scientology organization works, it shocked me how much attention to detail went into the thousands of little details throughout the building. Some examples:
- Digital Directories: Peppered throughout the interior of the building, in lieu of signs or directories, are touchscreen maps of the massive building. Each contain a list of all of the major places a person would need to get to in the building – and touching one of the locations gives you a 3D, multi-floor directional map showing where you are and what path would be the fastest way to get there. Like Google Maps for a building, it is a slick and intensely workable solution for navigating a 377,000 sq ft building.
- Consolidation of Spaces: The Church of Scientology Flag Service Organization is the largest Scientology church in the world. With 2,300 staff members, the Church services thousands of Scientologists on a weekly basis – with each doing a variety of different services – from the Purification Rundown – a program used to rid the body of toxins and enable one to think more clearly, to intense courses of study and one-on-one spiritual counseling. As the church grew in size from its initial 200 staff to the present 2,300, the delivery of the various services the church offered ended up spreading out to all manner of different buildings around Clearwater.
The opening of this building meant that nearly all of these services could be consolidated back into a single building, picking up massive efficiencies along the way. Now the flows of one thing to the next for the average parishioner are all done in the same building, allowing folks to progress through faster.
- Those Courserooms: One of the chief things done in a Scientology church is study. Students study courses not only to apply to the basics of day-to-day life, but also to study to be a Scientology counselor – or “Auditor”. The courserooms have countless tweaks done to make them efficient and effective places to study, from digital progress boards so that supervisors can track ones’ progress and help those that are in need of assistance, as well as a ton of other details that would make it just a joy to study in.
For some time after my first experience with the building, I just sort of sat in amazement of the sheer number of details that had to be pored over, compared and executed for all of the myriad spaces in the building, to allow all of the many staff and parishioners to work in harmony to achieve the building’s many goals. My hat is off to Mr. David Miscavige and the many church staff members who worked to bring this to fruition.