I have recently returned from a trip to Edinburgh where I couldn’t resist doing some further research on church projects. To my delight I found many cases of creative approaches to reusing church buildings and have taken note of some of the most innovative ones that I came across.
Leith School of Art is now in what was once a Norwegian Seaman Church, originally built in 1868. The church was adapted and extended in 2001 in order to provide more multi-functional studio space.
Mansfield Traquair Centre was once a building at risk and a project to restore the building was carried out between 1988 – 2002. It is now the headquarters of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations and includes an open-plan office space with mezzanine gallery. The main space now functions as a venue for public events, corporate entertainment and private functions. The murals were also restored and repaired adding to a visually striking finish.
The Eric Liddell Centre in Morningside was perhaps the most innovative of redevelopment projects I discovered. In 1981 the congregation of 4 parishes came together to form a charitable trust and purchased the church building for £20,000 and church was renamed Eric Liddell Centre. Between 1981 – 1987 architect Nicholas Groves-Raines utterly transformed and redesigned the space.. Five new levels added to the interior of the church to provide more facilities and spaces. While at the same time the stained glass windows and architectural features were retained within the new building scheme adding to a dramatic visual effect. New facilities included mezzanine gallery office space for hire to local business’ and charities (counselling services), café and seating area on ground level, lower ground level bookshop/charity shop, exhibition space and studio space, top floors fitness and gym space
All examples display a creative approach to redesign and sensitive use of their sacred spaces by responding to the needs of the local community. The other common link of all these approaches is that they respond to the threat all buildings may have faced which is redundancy and risk of closure. These buildings have now been adapted to add value socially, economically and environmentally to the places in which they are set.