Bethnal Green Mission Church is a multi- award-winning mixed-use building incorporating a church, community facilities, a vicarage and 14 flats for private sale. GRR were involved from conception to completion, working for a partnership between Bethnal Green Mission Church and developer, Thornsett Group.
It became clear early on that the congregation wished to create a building that was an integral part of the city it served rather than one that announces ‘church’ more overtly. GRR’s design subtly and gracefully announces the building’s civic nature while offering generous and beautiful spaces to worshippers and those just wishing to ‘pop in’.
Bethnal Green Mission Church is a complex project in a Conservation Area. GRR achieved planning permission on a site where others had previously failed to attract the support of the local authority.
A new pathway trough the adjacent listed Paradise Gardens rejuvenates a previously unloved and underused green space. A cafe on the most prominent corner of the site overlooks the park as well as the entrance, providing oversight and enabling the building to be open to the public throughout the day.
The project exemplifies GRR’s ongoing interest in enabling faith and community groups to leverage the property market in order to create highly sustainable facilities that they would otherwise be unable to afford.
The facade of Bethnal Green Mission Church subtly references local listed buildings in a contemporary interpretation, without copying or pastiche. The precast concrete fins and bands, which structure the facade, echo the stone pilasters and decorative detailing of the Grade I listed St. John on Bethnal Green opposite.
The pattern of the stained glass in the main worship space was developed in collaboration with illustrator and artist Coralie Bickford-Smith. The pattern references the criss-crossing concrete beams of the church ceilings, which in themselves are a reference to traditional vaulted church ceilings.
The pattern subtly repeats throughout the building, from the pinboard lining of the community halls to the counter of the new cafe, and even the special brick bond of the facade brickwork, creating a strong identity for the building.
The apartments are a mixture of one and two beds, with the exception of the vicarage which is a four bed property. Each is dual aspect, and have generous inset balconies which act as an additional, ‘outside room’ - with direct sunshine but sheltered from the elements.
Internally the palette is clean and minimal - grey, large format porcelain tiles to the kitchen / living areas, corridors and bathrooms, and pared back white kitchens and bathrooms. Floor to ceiling windows bring a sense of generosity and light, and emphasises the views across the local parks and back towards the city.