St Mary Redcliffe
St.Mary Redcliffe church is one of the largest and most celebrated parish churches in England, built and rebuilt on maritime trade wealth since its foundation in the 12th century.
The church has stood witness to many changes in the urban fabric of Bristol’s city centre since its medieval beginnings and by the 20th century the church had become ensnared by the inner city ring roads that have severed its relationship with the harbour, and created a fault line of social inequality between the wealthy and disadvantaged districts of inner Bristol.
As the Redcliffe Neighbourhood Forum develops plans for the future regeneration of the area, the church has recognised a once in a lifetime opportunity to upgrade its facilities, provide new opportunities for social outreach within its parish, and reconnect in an open and inviting way with a city centre with which it has become estranged.
FCBStudios response to the diverse brief was to create a wide plinth in front of the church in which to house the new public and choir uses, composed around a sunken courtyard in front of the north transept, and with a wide permeable street facing frontage. This creates a quiet focal point for the foyer, and brings light and landscape directly into the heart of the deep plan.
A new community hall at first floor level spills out onto the private external spaces of the upper terrace, level with the nave to improve accessibility and connectivity of the church’s many outreach activities.
The massing of the new building is composed to sit sensitively on the north churchyard, limiting imposition on key views, whilst capitalising on the potential of a front door onto one of Bristol’s busiest streets.
The architectural language is drawn from the church, using heavy masonry columns to shoulder the structure and unlocking the interiors to light, space and views.
Another new building to the south of the site houses the church’s community facing programmes, sited in the heart of south Redcliffe and creating a visible and welcoming new community hub.
Between the north and south sites the landscaping of the churchyard ties the new facilities back to the magnificent presence of St Mary’s.