Hamilton Road Baptist Church – High praise for church transformation
Shortlisted in the Community Benefit category of the RICS Awards 2016 Northern Ireland, is a project creating both a stunning place of worship and a vibrant new community hub through the refurbishment of Hamilton Road Baptist Church in Bangor.
The transformed building incorporates a 400 seat auditorium, a café known as “The Hub”, a kitchen and a suite of offices. Main contractors were TAL Construction.
The new facilities have attracted much larger congregations which regularly overflow into ancillary accommodation on Sundays – and has also prompted extensive community use both by church members and those with no church connection, who are using the facilities six days a week.
The design brief to project architects Michael Whitely Associates was to ‘create a space for a seated congregation of up to 400 people ‘in the round’; to express the heart of the church as public, outward, invitational and open, and to achieve a quality while avoiding extravagance’.
The resulting design and build delighted the church which commented: “The built response delivers in spades. The facility works practically and meets all our named needs. Worship in the new space is an open pleasure. We can’t quite comprehend where the size, scale and shape has come from – it’s a real blessing.”
According to the architects: “A strong and direct relationship with the street is formed with a shop front approach on a two storey scale with floor to ceiling glazing.
“The street literally runs into the front of church space which is designed to work in a café culture – an extension of the public realm. The simple external palette also runs through into the interior. Furniture is deliberately coloured, fresh and ergonomically modern, which catches the eye and adds to the ‘invitation’.
“The church wanted to worship in the round to amplify togetherness, equality, shared and communal devotions while still being focused on the ‘Word’.
“Given the shape of the available floor plate, the challenge could be seen as driving a round peg into a square hole. We harnessed the cranked edge for the stage and arranged the seats in the round to maximise numbers and optimal views.”
The acoustic walls ‘cup’ the congregation radially at the rear while also providing vertical connection between the seating layout and the ceiling layout – a series of stepped radial vectors racing to, or rippling from, the ‘Word’ – the pulpit location on stage emphasised by a crowning inclined down stand, which is also working acoustically – throwing sound waves in the correct direction. The lighting strategy followed suit.
“Attaining quality while avoiding extravagance brought out a very simple approach to natural wood. Arranged radially in plan and as simple planks on the vertical – separated to allow sound through to the acoustic chamber – these elements imbue the space with an immediate sense of integrity and quality without ostentatiousness.”
Public access has been 100 percent improved with three fully DDA compliant entrances now available from the public streetscape, and an eight-person passenger lift installed to access the first floor.