Purcell has been announced as the winner of the St Mary Redcliffe Design Competition, organized by Malcolm Reading. The competition sought a design which successfully reconciled the preservation of the building in its historical form with the necessary expansion to accommodate growing programmatic requirements.
The two-stage competition drew initial submissions from 53 practices, both local and international. Of these, Eric Parry Architects, Carmody Groarke, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, dRMM and Purcell were invited to submit concept designs, all of which can be viewed here. Purcell's winning design uses two main axes to "stitch" the church into its neighborhood and is described by Malcolm Reading as showing "the deepest understanding of the site and context and the opportunity at St Mary Redcliffe."
St Mary Redcliffe, a church grand enough to rival European cathedrals, has provided a place of Christian worship at the heart of Redcliffe for almost 900 years. Its significance as a masterpiece of gothic architecture is undeniable, and it attracts tens of thousands of visitors per year. The building's eminence brings with it a series of programmatic strains, as medieval plans no longer provide space for the facilities needed. The body of the church, with a distinctive cruciform floor plan, operates as one large space disallowing activities outside of worship and welcome. The church staff are without auxiliary space to carry out community or missionary activities, and are relegated to the parish offices and church undercroft. Access throughout the precinct is limited, with staircases acting as the main circulatory elements.
While these elements have held their function in the past, they are not enabling the church to operate at its fullest capacity now. Therefore, rather than focusing solely on historical restoration, Rev. Dan Tyndall outlined that the successful scheme should "help us both tell our story and shape it," as "valuing our heritage is only part of our present mission." This mission centers around the expansion of facilities to create a more inclusive community centre.
The competition was the result of 12 years of detailed studies by the management team. The new centre was to include administrative and support spaces, exhibition spaces, a café, a shop, a meeting hall, and a new community centre, while amending accessibility to all existing amenities with a step-free circulation approach.
Purcell's scheme responds to this vision with what the architect describes as "a ‘stitch’ of interconnected buildings, [which] re-establishes the church’s medieval enclosure and creates a new, permeable edge to the church grounds that will improve public access." The new buildings respect the inimitable gothic architecture, subtly playing up to existing design elements by creating a new "red cliff" of structures to mirror the building's namesake. Senior Architect Dan Talkes said: “For the church, this project represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to repair the fault lines that exist in Redcliffe’s urban fabric and, in doing so, to position the church at the physical, spiritual and social heart of the city.”
The site is positioned at the epicenter of the Redcliffe Neighbourhood Development Area, with each of its adjacent neighborhoods due for regeneration within the next decade. Purcell's scheme, which aims “to position St Mary Redcliffe as the centrepiece of wider regeneration,” aligns its core goals with those of the Redcliffe Neighbourhood Development Forum, a collective guiding the regeneration of greater Redcliffe. Purcell's design focused on urban integration and the activation of existing assets in the community.
Two main axes cut through the precinct and link up to existing streets, creating a new urban village. Rev. Dan Tyndall also noted that a "particular strength was the dispersal of accommodation across three locations, helping to tie the disparate northern and southern parts of Redcliffe together.”
Learn more, here.