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Terry Pawson Architects' church hall in Wimbledon complements and reshapes a varied context With Terry Pawson's own house nearby (AJ 15.8.02) and family links to St Mary's, the feel of the particular architecture of this new church hall was anticipated. Such purism can be evocative in a religious setting, though the hall is used only for communal events. That role remains with the looming grey presence of George Gilbert Scott's Grade II* church of 1843, the exterior of knapped flint with stone dressings. This church is part of a heterogeneous context for the new hall that set design challenges.

South of Scott's church, beyond a listed, buttressed red brick wall, lies a garden where, to its east, there is already a parish office-cumchurch hall. This remains in use but lacks a single space of sufficient size (or quality).

Extending it, with its pitched roof and 2.1m high eaves, was problematic. Instead, a new hall has been set on the opposite side of the garden (to the west), providing a useful-sized lawn between. The new hall is primarily a single volume and largely single-aspect, facing the lawn, hemmed in by a roadside wall to the south, Stag Lodge to the west and the natural location for entrance/ancillary spaces to the north.

The need to be able to divide the hall's main space in two meant that the western half, not adjacent to the lawn, would be windowless. Boundary negotiations with Stag Lodge gave its occupiers some benefits while providing space for a semicircle of terraced planting - a long, low window now looks onto this.

Also in this half of the plan, to the south, is a high window-cum-rooflight. At least it looks high from the inside - from the road less so, looking out over a new drystone wall of gritstone. The whole visual impact is lessened on this road because the garden where the building sits is sunk relative to the road.

The open-textured dry-stone boundary wall is consistent with Pawson's approach to the building. As with his own house, the elemental sculpture of the architectural form intensifies the colours, textures and contrasts of materials, set off against white planes. This is not pure white box architecture. Pawson's own house includes fairfaced concrete within and exterior oak boarding. Here, as well as the drystone wall, there is limestone walling to the building, beech floors and the sky colours of the acid-etched glass.

The main glazed prism marks the junction of ancillary spaces (entrance, changing for ballet/fitness classes, kitchen) and the principal volume, playing different compositional roles from different angles. From the lawn the colour-weight of the etched glass acts as counterbalance to the larger area of the off-centre main glazed wall. From the street to the south it shifts behind the wall-cum-rooflight in the foreground. From the north it is an enigmatic presence above the red brick boundary wall.

Essentially this is a simple building, with that 'effortless' detailing that is hard to do, yet layered in composition and underlying subtlety, responding to and reordering its varied context. It is well-used, with a range of bookings that never existed before. And word has spread - Pawson has been asked to design a hall for another parish. The architecture is its own advert.

CREDITS

TENDER DATE December 2001 START ON SITE DATE April 2002 CONTRACT DURATION 37 weeks GROSS INTERNAL FLOOR AREA 210m 2TOTAL COST £526,900 FORM OF CONTRACT JCT Intermediate Works (IFC98) CLIENT St Mary's Parochial Church Council ARCHITECT Terry Pawson Architects: Terry Pawson, Jeremy Browne, Nick Fleming, Gustav Ader, Gareth Hunter, Ruth Edwards STRUCTURAL ENGINEER Barton Engineers QUANTITY SURVEYOR, PLANNING SUPERVISOR Pierce Hill ARCHAEOLOGIST AOC Archaeology Group MAIN CONTRACTOR Cardy Construction SUBCONTRACTORS AND SUPPLIERS Stonemason Abbey Masonry and Restoration; glazing Cantifix of London; mechanical Amdail Building Services; electrical Lightning Electrical; waterproof concrete Cementaid; concrete roof planks Bison Concrete Products; Sarnafil roof membrane Robseal Roofing; roof insulation Kingspan; packaged sewage station Grundfoss Pumps; stainless steel fabrication Terry Gregory (Metal Fabrication); lime render Telling Lime Products; access hatches Panel and Louvre Company; moveable partitions Style Door Systems (Hufcor); underfloor heatingWarmafloor GB; beech floor Junckers; lighting Light Years (Kreon), Concord: Marlin; doors Carlton Smith; ironmongery STYLEtech; projection hinges Royde and Tucker; fire safety equipment Fire Protection Services (South East); fall arrest equipmentWT Safety Systems; manifestation A&N Signs; engraved stone plaque AE Vaughan Co; landscaping Scotscape

WEBLINKS

St Mary's Parochial Church Council www. stmaryswimbledon. fsnet. co. uk Terry Pawson Architects www. terrypawson. com Barton Engineers www. bartonengineers. co. uk Pierce Hill www. piercehill. com

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