Churches have been at the forefront of Western architectural innovation for thousands of years. Even the briefest of looks at the Notre Dame de Paris gives you a sense of the importance placed upon these spiritual structures by the organisations they serve. Whilst the uptake of Christianity may have waned in recent years, however, interest in preservation and restoration amongst their religious spaces (churches) has remained strong. Here at Munday + Cramer, we provide a range of architectural design and building surveying services, including those relating to churches. We wanted to look at the intricacies of architecture within this area in a little more detail.
The Christian Church
The Christian church features an incredibly wide variety of different creeds and doctrines, many of which are hugely different to one another. Many of these denominations have their own individual nuances and intricacies that need addressing, in terms of design and surveying, and that’s where firms like ours come in. When we think of Christianity, here in the UK, most of us will probably think of the Church of England and the Roman Catholic church. Understanding the cultural nuances of these two subsets of Christianity is only the beginning, however. Different churches often have their own specific requirements from a design perspective. Elements of design, for instance, pertaining to particular requirements defined within their teachings.
Case Study: St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church
A project Munday + Cramer undertook in East Ham, for example, shows just how particular these requirements can be. The refurbishment of St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church for the Diocese of Brentwood had to take Catholic teachings into account at all stages of the project, for instance. It was imperative, for example, that the tabernacle was made to always remain visible from the main body of the church, so that the Eucharist may be properly observed. When considering architecture and surveying, the layman won’t often consider the importance of adhering to cultural sensitivities, when in reality it’s one of the most crucial aspects.
A Consultative Approach
As you might have worked out by now, the way the various UK churches organise themselves is far from identical. Those with some knowledge on how churches operate will often talk about ‘quinquennial surveys’, but there’s much more to design and surveying than simply these. Alongside these five-year inspections (quinque meaning five and ennial denoting years) churches may undergo sympathetic alterations, faculty approvals, condition surveys and listed building consents to name but a few. In order to properly navigate this regulatory minefield, a specialist consultative approach from a firm offering design and surveying services is always best.
In terms of capital projects, churches typically derive additional funding by one of two means: donations and grant funding. Typically, they’re reliant on the latter and not the former, if a religious space is in particular need of funding for restorative or conservation works, they can apply for Heritage Lottery Fund: Grants for Places of Worship. Funding can be sought for projects for the value of between £10,000 and £250,000 and can prove a lifeline for many run-down churches. Securing a successful bid application is by no means an easy feat, however, and specialist help is advised should a parish wish to be successful.
Adapting To The Times
With churches, the role of designers and surveyors is as much in helping churches modernise as anything else. It’s no secret that average congregation sizes have plummeted in recent years; a reflection of the broader social decline in religious adherence. In England, in fact, Christian membership (across the various churches) is forecast to decrease to only 2.53 million by 2025. The Church of England has reported similarly sparse findings, finding that over the past decade 41% of its parishes have reported decreases in attendance.
To counteract this decline, many parishes have looked to branch out in terms of what their physical spaces offer. In their attempts to become community and social hubs, these consecrated spaces now serve many different functions. From the more traditional kids’ play groups and crèches through to Zumba classes, blood banks and community shops – in fact, more than 200 churches are thought to be home to community shops (both part and full-time).
With this new diversification comes a new set of potential needs; these include greater levels of storage for equipment, improved safeguarding measures and improved or additional facilities such as a new, bigger kitchen or improved toilets. Enabling such structural changes composes a large part of the overall remit of firms such as ours. Whether that be procurement, project management or architectural design, we’re able to help church spaces adapt, modernise and subsequently flourish.
So, if you’d like to find out more about our architectural design and buildings surveying services, then get in touch! Contact Munday + Cramer today on 01245 326 200 or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.