March 17th, 2008
St Paul’s Church and Community Centre, London England, Matthew Lloyd Architects, 2004
The church at Bow is a collection of assorted elements gathered together in one building. It is modestly gothic (1878) with a cylindrical three-storey bell tower, very large pointed windows and clerestory lights, and an open nave. The ceiling over the chancel is highly decorated, the gold ribs run into the cast-iron columns, which are positioned centrally in front of pilasters between the windows within the white painted walls. It appears that the brick walls of the nave were once also painted white, but these have been allowed to peel and fade. The pews are placed around the raised altar and the organ is positioned against a blocked-up arch.
Into this mixture Matthew Lloyd Architects have inserted a two-storey steel and timber structure. It is raised high into the vaulted ceiling of the church to leave the chancel and the nave free for worship. The front of this bold curved wooden structure is supported by four enormous white painted Y-shaped steel columns, which just stand among the pews. The rear is connected to a white rectangular box of a quite different nature, and contained within this is the meeting room and stairs to the gallery, gym, and community rooms at first and second levels. The building has been split three-dimensionally into two L-shaped sections. The church occupies the L at the front and ground level and the community use the L at the top and back of the building. The language of the new is quite different to that of the old, but then, each area is an assemblage of different styles, components and functions, the solution of which seems to work.
Photo by G.J. Brooker