BBM were appointed as Architects in early 2007 following a design bid led limited competition to create much needed multi-use accommodation as an annexe of a roman catholic church in Lewes, built in 1939. Our Clients, the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton, asked us to look at designing a collection of community facilities, including two community halls, that could also work as a new entrance ‘narthex’ to the church itself, while also providing a diversity of accommodation serving the parish and local community.
BBM proposed that the new SPA building should be a contemporary architectural response to the brief and programme, as well as the constraints and potentials of the site. The first move was to remove the existing Priest’s and Boy’s Sacristy and dig out a huge hole to allow for two community halls, one on top of the other, with the roof of the upper Main Hall and its subsidiary facilities echoing the existing Sacristy roof that was removed. To facilitate this the Main Contractors, Redwing, had to install concrete underpinning propping up the church and forming retaining walls up to 1.5 stories high. To the south of this BBM created a new entrance hall or ‘Narthex’ with stairs and lift facilities. Again the roof form over the Narthex echo’s that of the existing but at a slightly lower level.
The roofs over these new spaces are perhaps the most visual and dynamic elements of the scheme. The accommodation below these wave-like forms occupies the gently sloping ceilings that follow the form of the roof. We have suggested that the high point of the roof over the main hall has south-facing roof glazing, allowing dramatic and ever-changing natural light to wash over the sloping ceiling and down into the hall below. It will also allow occupants a view of the bell tower. In contrast, the roof over the Narthex has north-facing roof glazing. This will provide a more gentle, consistent north light for this important reflective place.
New entrance doors to the Narthex are glazed to contrast with existing solid timber doors. They are also orientated to draw people in, in preference to the existing porch currently used. It is hoped that these doors will be easily ‘read’ by visitors as the new entrance to the church and community centre.