St Martin-in-the-Fields
The �36 million renewal of St-Martin-in-the-Fields in London�s Trafalgar Square is one of the most significant and complex building projects to have been completed in recent years. St Martin�s plays an important part in London life, with facilities for the homeless, the local Chinese community, a rich music programme and a popular caf�. The site comprises the Gibbs-designed 18th century church (listed Grade I) along with its crypt, and three buildings in the north range (listed Grade II*) and the burial vaults which were designed by John Nash and built in the 1830s. Over the years the activities taking place within these spaces had continued to grow and intensify, and by 2001 the Vicar and Parochial Church Council knew that their buildings were failing and this was affecting their work for all those using and visiting the site. The Renewal Project set out to conserve and refurbish these significant buildings for the work of St Martin�s. The project had to be deliverable at a scale that could be funded, to programme, and to the highest quality, whilst maintaining core services on site. The architectural brief was to develop a master plan to unify the whole site, resolve spatial difficulties and create a series of uplifting spaces that are flexible enough to accommodate a range of activities now and in the future. Eric Parry Architects created a robust masterplan that connects each of the different elements of the site, creating and framing a space to nurture and sustain the work of the community. St Martin�s is a parish church with a broad range of responsibilities to its parishioners and is also a place of worship for a widely drawn congregation. Since World War One when the then Vicar Dick Sheppard provided a place of refuge for soldiers travelling to France, it has also played a leading role in the care of London�s homeless community, which continues through the work of The Connection at St Martin�s. In the 1960s St Martin�s was concerned for the welfare of Chinese immigrants arriving in the UK and since then has provided vital services to London�s Chinese community. St Martin�s also has a long association with public broadcasting that reaches far beyond London. Its music making is both rich and varied with church music and performances by profession and music students well attended. At the same time it is one of the city�s tourist attractions and its friendly caf� has a loyal following amongst local businesses, workers and visitors. The importance of the church and its setting required extensive consultation, with the client groups and the external stakeholders and authorities, to achieve the correct balance of reconstruction and conservation. The involvement of such a broad base of stakeholders from the outset created a momentum necessary to take the project through the lengthy processes of approvals, fundraising and construction. The completed project New public spaces and enhanced access lie at the heart of the scheme: a widened Church Path includes a glazed entrance pavilion providing access to a new foyer below ground and the reconfigured caf� in the crypt, as well as community meeting rooms, a small chapel and the Chinese Community Centre. Constructed of an innovative glass wall, the pavilion responds sensitively to its architectural context and echoes the shimmering quality of the renewed church windows. The form of the pavilion is inverted at the eastern end of Church Path where a lightwell brings daylight deep into the below-ground spaces with the new community rooms and facilities. The churchyard has also been reconfigured above, providing a place for contemplation and reflection. The conservation works to the church have removed later Victorian additions and returned the interior to its 18th-century glory. Clear hand-made glass has replaced the translucent glazing, allowing natural light once again to flood into the interior space. The church�s elaborate decorative plasterwork has been restored; the pulpit has been relocated close to its original position, improving sightlines for congregation and audiences; and the chancel reordered to allow greater flexibility for worship and concerts. The exterior has been completely restored and cleaned. The buildings that make up the North Range have been refurbished to provide modern, purpose-built accommodation. The Connection at St Martin�s � one of the UK�s largest organisations working with the homeless � now has flexible spaces in which to undertake its social care work. A day centre, night centre, medical facilities, caf� and rooms for counselling and workshops have been provided, reflecting St Martin�s ethos as the �church with the ever open door�. The project is both the buildings and the public spaces between. It has successfully addressed areas of the site that were failing, be it physically (leaking vaults; inadequate ventilation) or socially (underused & threatening public spaces). The project completes the World Squares for All project at Trafalgar Square and improves the pedestrian routes to Covent Garden and for the commuters passing through from Charing Cross Station. The generosity of the new route, the quiet authority of the renovated buildings and the appropriate design of the new interventions has lead to a greater public respect and a decrease in antisocial behaviour. All the public areas are now fully accessible (with the exception of the stepped church gallery). The quality and ambition for the building project has been matched by the significant art commissions including: new East Window by Shirazeh Houshiary and Pip Horne; poem on the lightwell handrail by Andrew Motion, poet laureate, with lettering by Tom Perkins; and the annual nativity by Tomoaki Suzuki in the square. Since the reopening of the renovated church and new community areas St Martin�s has seen increased visitor and community involvement. Throughout the project the key milestones were celebrated publicly with the community. �For the first time St Martin�s buildings support its work and reputation. These are buildings that lift the spirits.� The Revd Nicholas Holtam, Vicar, St Martin-in-the-Fields


22 photos

Building Activity

  • added a digital reference
    about 6 years ago via