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New Bristol contest expected to attract global interest

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Major competition launches to design a £12-15 million visitor and community centre next to a landmark 15th-century Bristol church

The Grade I-listed St Mary Redcliffe church, which is ‘stranded in a road network’ on the city’s celebrated Brunel Mile, wants to create a ‘building or buildings’ to house exhibition spaces plus a café, shop, meeting hall, expanded social facilities and office space.

Contest organiser Malcolm Reading of Malcolm Reading Consultants expected the project to have ‘diverse appeal’, attracting ‘start-up practices as well as established names’.

He said: ‘The client has spent two years carefully planning the competition and is genuinely open-minded about finding the right team to work with them over the long term. It’s a good budget and a great opportunity.’

He added: ‘The proposed redevelopment will position the church at the centre of Redcliffe, presenting an opportunity for it to become a true centrepiece, serving both its neighbouring community as well as national and international visitors.’

The two-stage competition is running alongside a wider regeneration project, the Redcliffe Neighbourhood Development Plan – a separate proposal to make the church the focus of a new urban village.

Reverend Dan Tyndall, vicar of St Mary Redcliffe, said: ‘St Mary Redcliffe is both a living church and a national landmark. Not only do we plan to expand our local outreach and mission but also increase people’s delight and enjoyment of the church. Our ambition is to create an outstanding experience for all, creating a welcoming atmosphere, offering hospitality and showing off some of our many treasures – which are currently locked away.

We want a team who will be really energised and excited by this project

‘We’re searching for a team who will be really energised and excited by this project, who will understand the local and international, the historic and progressive aspects of this fascinating challenge.’

The deadline for expressions of interest is 15 January 2016. The shortlist for the second stage will be announced in February, with all the finalists’ designs showcased at a public exhibition.

A winning team will be announced in late May.

Competition information

At the first stage of the design competition, expressions of interest are sought rather than designs; at the second stage, up to five shortlisted teams will be asked to produce concept designs. To enter the competition, architects will need to visit:


The contest is being run in accordance with European Union procurement guidelines under the Restricted Procedure. Competitors will need to upload their responses through the Delta procurement portal via the web address above.

The 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 last year turned Bristol’s Park Street into a giant water slide.

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.



Rob Gregory, programme manager at Bristol’s Architecture Centre:

‘I went to St Mary Redcliffe and Temple School, so this breathtaking building is close to my heart. The church not only provides a world-class landmark on the city’s celebrated Brunel Mile, but also sits at the heart of a diverse city-centre community, comprising residents, businesses, tourists and of course the school itself.  

‘For more than 30 years local stakeholders have campaigned to see the setting of the church along Redcliffe Way developed as a more densely planned and vibrantly occupied part of the city (as I first reported on in the AJ in 2003 – see Black Street Boys). This has culminated in an ambitious neighbourhood development plan which seeks to develop land currently dominated by a four-lane remnant of the old inner ring road. The church will be a key anchor in the creation of a new public square.

‘This competition suggests ambitions are set high which can only be good for the immediate community and thousands of others who use this part of the city.

‘I hope the contest attracts a broad range of entries, from those known to have expertise in dealing with complicated ecclesiastical buildings, to emerging architects, and artists and designers who understand the city and what heritage, engagement and community really mean.’

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Another way of increasing delight and showing off one of the church's treasures would be to clean the stonework of the north porch - passed by so many people each day and one of the most radical pieces of mediaeval architecture in this country.

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