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AJ exclusive: designs by finalists in Bristol church contest revealed

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The AJ can exclusively show you the designs by the five finalists in the competition to design a £12-15 million visitor and community centre next to Bristol’s Grade I-listed St Mary Redcliffe church

The proposed schemes, aimed at making the medieval landmark ’truly outward-facing’, have been drawn up by Carmody Groarke, Eric Parry Architects, dRMM, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios and Purcell.

Organised by Malcolm Reading Consultants (MRC), the contest attracted more than 50 submissions, with 20 per cent of entries coming from overseas.

The concept designs will go on public display on Monday 25 April in the church. The winning team is expected to be announced in late May.

Shortlist in full

  • Carmody Groarke
  • dRMM
  • Eric Parry Architects
  • Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
  • Purcell

David Hamilton, project director of Malcolm Reading Consultants, said: ’The teams responded whole-heartedly to the design challenge here: to assess and realise the potential of the possible areas for development within the church’s overall site, while reflecting the ambitions of the brief.

‘The new amenities are necessarily dispersed but offer the chance to create new creative connections and new perspectives – a metaphor, really, for the overall project.’

‘The balance of different design judgements is fascinating’

The reverend Dan Tyndall, vicar of St Mary Redcliffe, added: ’The brief for the competition is focused on making the church truly outward-facing in its three aspects as a place of worship, community hub and visitor destination. So we’re delighted that these proposals re-present the church and its functions to the street, while respecting the elemental heritage quality of this Grade I-listed building.

’The balance of different design judgements is fascinating: some reanimating formal processional routes, some conceiving the garden as a dynamic focus and some reconnecting the church to the urban context, anticipating future changes in the current road layout. We very much look forward to the jury and, ultimately, choosing a winner.’

The competition jury includes journalist, broadcaster and author Simon Jenkins, and Bristol-based contemporary artist Luke Jerram, who was responsible for the Park and Slide installation, which turned Bristol’s Park Street into a giant water slide.



Photograph by Emily Whitfield-WicksSt Mary Redcliffe, Redcliffe, Bristol. A night time view from Prince street bridge with Redcliffe Wharf to the right, river Avon.

About St Mary Redcliffe

  • Grade I-listed and the architectural equivalent of many European cathedrals, St Mary’s is one of the largest parish churches in England and notable for its connection with many important historical figures, including Handel and Coleridge.
  • The church has links with America through artefacts relating to John Cabot’s voyage of 1497 and Admiral Penn; the latter, the namesake of Pennsylvania, is buried within the church.
  • Elizabeth I described the building, which is still the tallest in Bristol, as ‘the fairest, goodliest and most famous parish church in England’.
  • St Mary Redcliffe attracts tens of thousands of visitors and tourists annually. Built, and then rebuilt, over a 300-year period from the early 13th century to the 15th century, the church has always lacked sufficient community and support spaces for its vital work in one of the most deprived wards in the country.
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