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LDN wins York’s St Michael le Belfrey Church contest

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LDN Architects has won an international contest to reconfigure York’s Grade I-listed St Michael le Belfrey Church

The Edinburgh-based practice was chosen ahead of rival bids by Dow Jones, Purcell, Simpson & Brown, and London firm Steyn Studio in collaboration with Wigan’s Anthony Grimshaw Associates.

Open to architect-led multidisciplinary teams, the two-stage RIBA competition sought innovative proposals to refurbish and ‘re-order’ the 1537 landmark, which has an 800-strong congregation and sits next to York Minster.

The £3.5 million project will draw on contemporary technology to transform the popular venue into a ‘welcoming, accessible and warm church environment, with a flexible interior arrangement which remains faithful to its heritage’.

The church’s vicar, Matthew Porter, said: ‘We are delighted to be working with LDN Architects. The team was consistently ranked highly by the evaluation panel and a popular choice in our public exhibition, liked for their proposed layout and flexibility of approach.

‘Their ideas supported by a well thought-through design report and costings leads us to believe they will be a good fit for St Michael le Belfrey.’

Architect Keith Williams, who acted as RIBA adviser on the competition, said: ‘The great challenge set out in this competition was to create the new legacy, the 21st century architectural contribution, which would facilitate evolving patterns of worship for now and for generations to come.

‘The winning entry by LDN Architects established a refined and elegantly simple concept. Outlining the potential for a calm series of finely crafted, clearly contemporary interventions which work with and not against the architecture, light and geometry of the existing building, the designs elegantly encapsulate the new forms of worship envisaged in the brief and, as such, stood to the fore.’

Mark Sidgewick, partner at LDN Architects said: ‘The vision to re-order the Grade I-listed St Michael le Belfrey Church will result in a transformative project with the aim of inspiring and enabling 21st century worship and reinforcing the impact of the Church within the city of York and beyond.

‘LDN Architects are proud to be involved in this opportunity to help realise the long-held ambitions of the St. Michael le Belfrey community and to work with them to create a solution that is practical, graceful and creative and which celebrates the heritage of the city, church and faith.’

The church’s parish was merged with nearby St Cuthbert’s Church in the early 1970s following a revival led by the English Anglican priest, evangelist and author David Watson.

Today the building is in need of a replacement roof and repairs to its belfry. An existing pipe organ is also due to be relocated off-site, freeing up space.

The project aims to create a new flexible layout for the church while creating a new ‘beautifully executed’ exterior welcome area alongside improved toilets, catering and changing facilities.

Stage one judges included Keith Williams of Keith Williams Architects and members of the Parochial Church Council at St Michael le Belfrey. The five finalists received £7,000 each to develop conceptual proposals for a public exhibition in May.

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