This is a sample of a project which features in the magazine. Click on the thumbnail below to see how the article appeared in print.
Clevedon Baptist Church
by David Burne, Associate Acanthus Ferguson Mann Architects
The new Baptist Church is prominently located in the centre of Clevedon, a vibrant town of Victorian origin, on the Severn Estuary. The building lies within the Clevedon Conservation Area, where it addresses the main town square and provides a range of spaces for worship and other community uses.
An organic plan generated by the form of the available site, creates an integrated series of spaces, including a first floor worship space where natural light is used to dynamic effect. The exterior of the church is designed as a distinctive response to the context which includes an adjacent Victorian crescent of shops.
Arranged over three floors, the accommodation comprises a fan-shaped auditorium for 350 people at first floor, a glazed entrance foyer / café and multi-purpose hall fronting the plaza at ground floor, and a range of meeting rooms on each floor. The interior is naturally lit and naturally ventilated, with mechanical assistance provided in the foyer, hall and worship space at peak times.
By careful articulation of the plan, and due consideration of acoustic and fire safety principles, an ‘open plan’ layout has been achieved, which minimizes the physical barriers between spaces. At ground floor, a series of interlinked spaces have been created, which can operate independently or as an “en filade” arrangement with doors held open on electromagnetic hold open devices.
A feasibility study in January 2002 identified the requirement to replace the existing church on the site with a larger building, to provide the accommodation required for an increasing congregation, and to overcome concerns of rising maintenance costs, and DDA requirements.
The client’s brief identified the following key items:
• The Church is to be open and welcoming, with a foyer / café ‘drop in area’ for use by the church and the wider community
• A worship space designed to provide good visibility within the space, for the fellowship to interact with each other whilst being ‘gathered’ around the leader
• A range of meeting rooms and ancillary accommodation for a range of activities, with easy movement within and between spaces
• Ensure the building complies with all requirements in terms of access for all
The Baptist movement is interesting; being less bound by tradition, it does not always consider its church buildings as needing a traditional iconic form with nave, aisles and tower. Our response and brief from the outset was to create a design that responded to the ‘place’, was open and engaging for interactive community use in the market square, and that the building should not necessarily shout ‘church’.
The site is constrained by neighbouring properties and the building works hard in responding to the urban design issues, terminating the crescent and offering a permeable elevation to the main square that creates an inviting entrance to the café, a ‘traditional shop’. At the junction of the crescent and the plaza the building is articulated by a tower, incorporating subtle cruciform structures within the glazed brick facades and roof elements.
These structures can be illuminated by night, to more explicitly signify the Church’s presence.
To accommodate 350 people, the worship space is lifted above the busy market square at first floor level creating a quiet, tranquil place; the fan shaped plan being articulated by natural lighting at high level, with south facing clerestory windows, and a sculptural roof light that directs sunlight down to the baptistery beneath. A high, timber lined, curved ceiling forms a volume that creates sense of occasion, yet feels sufficiently comfortable and intimate, striking a delicate balance between making a dynamic ‘place’ for celebrations as well as a calm space for reflection and prayer.