New church development that’s streets ahead

Dave HallByDave Hall

New church development that’s streets ahead

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to link three disparate buildings with an internal street.

That was the task facing EMJ Architects in 2012 by Grace Church in Yate, near Bristol.

The growing fellowship had purchased a development site comprising a former physiotherapy centre and an older building dating from around 1880. A new 220-seat meeting hall and entrance also needed to be constructed that was welcoming, warm, light and comfortable.

‘In essence, the hall was to be an extension of someone’s own home,’ explained EMJ director Esmond Murray.

Grace Church redevelopment in Yate, near Bristol

The design focused around an ‘internal street’ – a large, multi-purpose circulation space that would remove the need for a series of corridors and could be used as a meeting or activity space in its own right. The street would be angled to allow central access to the new meeting hall, while a timber-clad wall, appearing as a continuation of the external cladding, would visually draw visitors to the heart of the building.

The work was completed in 2019.

‘It was a challenge to avoid impacting detrimentally on the setting of the locally listed building, while providing an attractive and legible entrance to the church,’ said Esmond. ‘A key element of that was to break down the overall mass of the design by wrapping the main body of the new meeting hall and the existing building with flat roof elements, lessening the overall visual impact of the proposal and keeping its overall height to an appropriate level.

‘Our aim, in all our work, is to produce design solutions that are attractive, practical, sustainable, sensitive to their environment and that above all respond to the individual needs of each client.’

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• EMJ Architects will be exhibiting at CRE South West 2021 (17-18 Mar) and CRE National 2021 (12-14 Oct)

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CRE South West 2021
17-18 March 2021
Westpoint, Exeter

CRE National 2021
12-14 October 2021
Sandown Park, Surrey

About the author

Dave Hall

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