The £7 million mixed-use development – with a church at its heart – was designed by Gatti Routh Rhodes for the Bethnal Green Mission Church and developer Thornsett
Sited on Cambridge Heath Road, the project was funded by the creation of 14 flats – known as the Macpherson Apartments after the church’s founder – which are for market sale. In addition the building, which forms an intense urban block, contains co-working facilities for charities, a community hall, café, bookshop, community kitchen, food bank – as well as the church and vicarage.
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The new Mission was constructed using a concrete frame up to the second storey with cross-laminated timber panels above. All has then been clad in a precast grid of concrete panels, framing site-laid brickwork in raking monk-bond.
Inside, diagonal concrete ribs form the ceiling of the double-height church space, intended to reference the vaulting in traditional churches. The crossed patterning is also picked up again in a dramatic blue and green stained-glass window by Coralie Bickford-Smith, as well as in the detailing of the main entrance gates, the café counter and the lectern – the latter designed and made by the architect.
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Many of the flats are dual aspect, with each designed to high acoustic and thermal standards, in particular shielding the occupants from the noise of the elevated Overground train line that runs parallel to the building. One further four-bedroom flat, situated on the second floor, forms the vicarage – conveniently on site for church services.
On the ground floor, there’s a new café at the corner to Cambridge Heath Road, while the community functions of the building are located in spaces in the basement, the main one partly double-height and naturally-lit. These rooms are designed to host activities including a food bank, night shelter, after-school clubs, youth groups and Christian-Muslim interfaith projects.
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The church has been embedded in its community and the local area for just over 150 years. We wanted to express that idea of church as a part of the community – as a part of the city that it serves – in the architecture. That meant balancing an open and welcoming entrance with elements that signal ’church’ such as the stained glass, the slightly protruding church and entrance volumes and the hammered concrete cross, while integrating the whole into a city block – creating a small piece of the city it represents. We feel privileged to have worked on the project, and hope to have played a part in keeping this community at the heart of Bethnal Green for many years to come.
Richard Gatti, director, Gatti Routh Rhodes
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We are very excited that our new church building will offer a welcoming, vibrant and accessible space for people in our local community and with a design which connects our rich history with our contemporary needs and expression.
Mike Houston, Bethnal Green Mission Church Minister
We are very proud of what Thornsett and Bethnal Green Mission Church have achieved in turning an underutilised and inaccessible building into a new landmark for east London. The new building is one of the first things people will see as they emerge from the Tube and the standard of architecture is a welcome new addition to the streetscape. We have provided a facility over two floors to enable a 150-year old charity to continue to serve the local community – and the new café provides an open, welcoming space to all. Office space and apartments combine to create a truly mixed-use development. The apartments are all very light and airy with a real Scandinavian feel to them. You are surrounded by trees and greenery, making it hard to believe you are in central London.
Bernadette Cunningham, director, Thornsett
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Start on site July 2016
Completion September 2018
Gross internal floor area 1,976m²
Gross (internal + external) floor area 2,535m²
Form of contract Design and Build
Construction cost £7 million
Architect Gatti Routh Rhodes
Executive architect Capital Architecture
Client Thornsett Group / Bethnal Green Mission Church
Structural engineer Price & Myers
M&E consultant OCSC
Landscape consultant Guarda Landscape
Acoustic consultant RBA Acoustics
Stained glass Coralie Bickford-Smith
Project manager Thornsett Group
CDM coordinator Stace
Approved building inspector Premier Guarantee
Main contractor Curo
CAD software used Revit