Planning to extend and modernise within the constraints of centuries old buildings often proves a challenge but a number of innovative churches and heritage buildings have discovered the solution by looking upwards.
Lofty buildings designed to inspire awe with high ceilings and towers often have more space within the body of the church than room to expand externally.
Adding a gallery or mezzanine floor area can significantly increase the floor space but the design needs a sensitive approach to ensure that the improvements have a positive impact and don’t detract from the fabric of the building or the atmosphere of the church.
Ion Glass, the Sussex based heritage and ecclesiastical glass specialists, have a well deserved reputation for installing glass in heritage buildings throughout the UK, with some stunning examples of glass screens and glass balustrading around mezzanine floors.
St Andrew Undershaft, located in the heart of London on St Mary Axe, dates back to 1532 and is a rare example of a city church that has survived both the Great Fire of London and the Blitz. Recently, St Andrew’s has become a vibrant centre for bible studies and prayer meetings. The church needed more functional space but hemmed in on all sides by modern buildings and busy roads it was impossible to extend outwards. The solution is an attractive gallery area that has increased the floor space and facilitated a separate meeting room, toilets and showers.
It’s a very contemporary result, with maximum use of glass to make full use of natural light and minimise the visual impact on the building’s magnificent leaded windows. Ion Glass worked closely with the architects to ensure that the glass is fully compliant whilst also meeting the wholly frameless design brief.
The balustrade at St Andrews is constructed from 21.5mm toughened laminate glass with both curved and straight panels, bolt fixed to the substrate of the gallery floor. A single row of stylish stainless steel bolts makes a design statement across the front edge of the gallery whilst a white film applied directly to the glass masks the unfinished edge of the floor.
With no visible clamps, posts or a handrail the installation is deceptively simple. As Peter Hazeldean, MD of Ion Glass commented:
“It’s the minimalist finish that makes this such an impressive result. We’re very proud to have developed the techniques that allow us to install structural glass that meets all loading requirements with so few obvious fixings.”
Ion Glass were commissioned to provide the glass screens, doors and balustrade for a lowered bell-ringing platform at St Peter’s Church in Dunchurch, near Rugby. The church dates back to the 13th century and the original bell-ringing platform was situated deafeningly close to the bells. The new installation separates the bell-ringers from the bells themselves and provides an acoustic barrier between the sound of the peal and the music of the organ.
Significant use of glass allows light to flow into the church without obscuring the original stained glass window. A screen across the full span of the platform has created a fully enclosed room, with minimal fixings to detract from the simple beauty of the glass. A separate single glass balustrade, fitted into the ancient stonework with bespoke fixings, protects the original leaded window.
The new platform is reached via a spiral staircase and enclosed across the front by a glass balustrade of 15mm toughened glass, which was resin anchored into bespoke bracketry powder coated in bronze to match the staircase.
“We produce all the metal work relating to the glass we supply,” said Peter Hazeldean. “Most installations require something very specific to complement the glass, whether it’s hinges, handles or brackets in bespoke finishes. The bronze powder coating provides a subtle finish that ties the whole installation together and helps blend the old with the new.”
The Victorian chapel at Hurst College near Brighton in Sussex is an impressive and integral part of the school. It was built in the late 1800’s and houses a long-standing tradition of regular worship with all pupils and staff gathering together for a weekly Eucharist service. But as the school has gained in popularity and increased dramatically in size the chapel was no longer big enough to accommodate all the pupils.
Once again, the answer was to look up. The lofty Victorian ceilings provided more than enough room to build an unobtrusive suspended gallery above the main entrance to the chapel. The design included maximum use of glass for a robust but visually unobtrusive result.
Ion supplied a bespoke channel set glass balustrade around the gallery finished with a polished stainless steel handrail. It offers minimal visual intrusion, enabling those sitting within the gallery to view the chapel unhindered whilst the handrail provides a contemporary finish in keeping with other glass installations in the school.
“Glass balustrades offer the optimum result in so many heritage buildings,” added Peter Hazeldean of Ion Glass.
“It’s so important that a contemporary addition doesn’t detract from the original architecture and glass is the obvious solution to ensure that light can still flow around the space and that stained glass windows can still be enjoyed in all their glory. Glass is robust, beautiful and functional and can be finished with wooden or metal furniture depending on the setting.
“We have developed a range of fixing methods to have minimal impact on old stone walls and Ion can template the glass so it cuts perfectly around stone arches and corbels. Each heritage installation raises different challenges but it’s always a pleasure to work in ancient buildings, bringing new life to old spaces and blending old with new.”
For more information about Ion Glass or to discuss your project visit: www.ionglass.co.uk or call 0845 658 9988.