31 March 2022
Conservation & Regeneration
Conservation & Regeneration Constructing Excellence SECBE Awards 2022 Finalist
This wonderful, heritage-sensitive project replaced the 1970s-constructed foyer of Reading’s Grade I-listed Greyfriars Church and redeveloped adjacent Victorian buildings. Greyfriars is a former Franciscan friary; its walls date back to the 14th century and its striking west window is one of the best-preserved UK examples of a Franciscan window. The prominent church has a large and active congregation.
The existing foyer, which extended from, and covered, a large part of the west and north-facing elevations, architecturally detracted from the beautiful church. The team carefully demolished the foyer to ensure no damage was done to the historic fabric and that asbestos elements were removed safely. A wide entrance was cut into the western wall through one-metre-thick solid flint, under the historic window, fully connecting the atrium with the church.
The new, glazed foyer allows the west wall of the church to be seen again. The foyer is much more sympathetic to the church’s architectural heritage and complements the proposed new buildings. It provides a transparent and welcoming entrance space, “The Atrium”, which houses a reception area, café, bookshop and lounge space for events or socialising, open to everyone from Monday to Saturday.
Two dilapidated Victorian terraced buildings on Sackville Street, to the north, were refurbished; a single-storey rear extension was demolished, and the main buildings transformed into offices for use by the church’s full time administration staff. New toilet facilities were built for, while a new glazed link structure will connect the buildings with The Atrium.
The existing 1970s-built church hall at the north-west of the site, no longer fit for purpose, has been demolished as part of phase two. It will be replaced by a flexible and multifunctional community hub which will include social and events space, offices and a commercial-grade kitchen. There will be a glazed, covered walkway between the new facility and the church. The new centre’s design avoids “heritage-style” pastiche and instead creates a dynamic interrelationship between old and new.
The project provides more appropriate social facilities for the community and improves the look and feel of the wider area by replacing an aesthetically unpleasing foyer structure with an attractive new foyer which complements and celebrates the historic building.
Funding for Phase Two has been community-led, with grants received from numerous trusts and congregations giving generously, allowing works to commence. The church itself performs an essential social function, not just as a place of worship, but also as a community hub and outreach facility, and the project enhances those functions, equipping the church with the ability to better perform its community roles.
Ridge was appointed by Greyfriars in 2017 to provide Cost Management and Employer’s Agent services, working closely with the architect (JBKS), contractor Ash Construction and the design team throughout the project. Ridge was also appointed as Principal Designer and Building Services Engineer to undertake full design of mechanical and electrical services.
Phase one was successfully completed in 2021, protecting and enhancing the church’s heritage, delivering community benefits and equipping the site for the future.
The new atrium foyer is much more sympathetic to the 14th century church and its heritage, allowing the west wall, covered up for decades, to be seen again. The project improves the look and feel of the wider area by replacing an aesthetically unpleasing foyer structure with an attractive new foyer that complements and celebrates the historic building.
This project delivers a great new community facility. Greyfriars church performs an essential social function, not just as a place of worship, but also as a community hub and outreach facility, and Ridge & Partners' project enhances those functions, equipping the church with the ability to better perform its community roles.
The new western wall opening into the church from the atrium, through one-metre-thick solid flint, underneath a beautiful stained-glass window which is several hundred years old, was a feat of which Ridge & Partners are proud. To protect the historic fabric of the church, especially the window, the process was planned and executed in minute detail.
Client: Greyfriars Church
Project's Partners: Ridge and Partners LLP, Ash Contracting, JBKS Architects
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Find out who wins at the Constructing Excellence SECBE Awards 2022 Ceremony on Thurs 30th June 2022.