St Paul’s & St George’s Episcopal Church in Edinburgh has an expanding and vibrant congregation that had been struggling to function effectively in their A Listed building on York Place. The vision was to make their building fit for a contemporary role and to sustain its use as a place of congregation for years to come. In addition the project was to act as a public symbol of the Church’s intention to look forward through positive change.
To creatively solve the problems identified, our proposals had to challenge the opinions of Historic Scotland on the sanctity of the listed building, the anxieties of the Church Diocese and critical aspects of the Technical Standards. The project was realised by three key elements:
1. The Church Interior: The principal move was to construct new galleries, floating elements linked by light walkways, to double the Churchâ?Ts capacity to 800. Their expressed raked form lessens the impact and maintains an understanding of the Church volume. By replacing the pews at ground level with flexible seating, the Church can now accommodate a wide range of worship and performance related functions. Both the ground level and the new upper galleries are linked directly with the same levels in the new extension to increase permeability through the complex of spaces.
2. Entrance Pavilion: A distinct welcome space was created in the form of an elegant glass pavilion in front of the West gable. The transparency of the structural frameless glass preserves the gravity of the gothic faÃ§ade, whilst the intervention of the bold contemporary form gives a distinct point of reference and expresses the Churchâ?Ts progressive outlook.
3. Extension: The Church has many groups that require flexible accommodation. The existing single storey hall to the North was inflexible and difficult to access. By demolishing this hall and using the deep under-building and height of the adjacent Church, it was possible to construct a new three-storey building. The site was extremely restricted and presented considerable challenges in terms of light, overlooking and access. The result is bright, flexible accommodation that includes a lower level that never existed previously and is linked with the existing rooms beneath the chancel.
The £4.5m project was completed at the end of August 2008 and the positive response from the congregation has been overwhelming. The project has breathed life back into the historic building, which is enhanced rather than hindered by contemporary intervention.
Photography provided by Malcolm Innes.