The 21st Century Project
The creation of additional space and facilities for accommodating an increasing range of Church and Parish activities has long been an aim of St. Mary's Church members. Under the overall title of "The 21st Century Project", much work has already been done within the Church building, and the major task now remaining is to build an Annexe to house additional space and facilities.
St. Mary's Church Centre
THE DESIGN BRIEF
The PCC asked Nick Rule, the Architect, to consider the Parish statement of need and provide:-
- A flexible meeting space capable of being sub divided to suit simultaneous use
- Support areas in the form of sanitary facilities and storage.
- Kitchen facilities that can adapt to changing needs and is easy to use.
- Close connection to the existing Church.
- Low maintenance construction using good quality materials for longevity.
- A distinctive building which reflects the optimism of the Christian community locally. It should be deferential to the architecture of the Church but have a clear separate identity and design language.
His interpretation of these needs is as follows:
SITE RESTRAINTS AND PRACTICAL REQUIREMENTS
Archaeology - The need to respect and record
any burials encountered in forming foundations
Views - Contrasting with the more contemplative interior of the Church, the Centre should be open and have clear visual connection to the landscape
Light - The Centre should be naturally well lit and spacious.
Access - The Centre should be visible from Mill Green and be accessible as a separate space as well as being linked to the Church interior
Cost - The Centre should be efficient in the use of the resources of the Parish and provide a facility that is robust and of lasting quality.
Programme - The project is to be completed in phases at optimum speed.
Sustainability - The Centre is to be sparing with natural resources and formed of natural materials as far as possible relying on modern building techniques and with long life. The building is to be energy efficient and able to respond to varying patterns of use.
DESIGN RATIONALE AND OUTCOMES
Computer Generated Image from the north-east of the Churchyard
The building is on the north side of the Church, abutting the outside walls of the Lady Chapel and the Parish Office. This is an area of the Churchyard where very few recent burials have taken place.
The design of the centre is based on the use of a steel frame which creates a free spanning shell under which the layout can be reconfigured if required later without any additional structure or loss of stability. The frame allows for both clear open space inside the building and uninterrupted window walls with views into the Churchyard and beyond.
The frame structure is also important in allowing the loading of the superstructure
of the building to be transferred to the ground in discrete point loads rather
than a destructive continuous deep strip foundation that would be needed for
conventional cavity masonry.
The layout of the interior allows for the most direct relationship between the meeting spaces and the surrounding landscape. The service areas, toilets and kitchen are sited against the Church walls forming the north side of the existing building, as they do not require external views.
The external form of the building echoes some of the Church and its Churchyard architecture. The North porch and the East Lychgate have "heavy" bases and overhanging roofs. Both the Nind Tomb (beside the Tower) and the Hannen Mausoleum have cross gabled roofs and corner supports and these are major influences on the new centre. The rain water gutters are integral to the form of the roof and enable the edge line of the roof to be simple and well defined.
The choice of materials has been considered at length. There are references to the mix of natural materials seen within the "tapestry" of the surviving Church fabric - stone dressing, dark oak framing, along with rusticated plinth base courses and render. The new Centre takes as its base palette of materials the use of a distinctive low maintenance copper roof ideally suited to a lighter structure, oak framed windows with reverse ovolo mouldings to echo the details of the North porch and Church interior detail. Flat render panels and reconstituted stone corner dressings complete the composition of the lower wall stall risers. The front entrance for visitors is adjacent to the Parish Office with pathway access direct from Mill Green. Access from the Nave is through the North Door and a short pathway into the rear of the Centre.
The meeting area is partitioned into two rooms divided by a folding screen. The kitchen facility and toilets will be next to the wall of the Lady Chapel.
Convenient access from the Parish Office enables the meeting rooms to double on weekdays as offices for the clergy/voluntary workers. The centre offers advantages for mid-week meetings, such as Christianity Explored, and provides space for discrete discussion groups where people can talk and pray in a calm and uncrowded environment.
Donations to this project can be sent to the appeal chairman Bob Austen, 7 Dunnock Way, Wargrave, RG10 8LR or via the Parish Office, by completing the attached Donation and Gift Aid Form.