Housing Social Demands: The Church of England

Susana Rojas Saviñón:

The purpose of this dissertation is to question the role of the English religious institution in the twenty-first century. It demonstrates how the Church of England, as the state church has a remarkable architectural heritage, an incomparable socio-political and economic power, and more importantly, social and moral responsibility. Through this potential, the Anglican Church can ameliorate public services and social conditions, as well as progress design and research practice through its continuous innovation of architectural typologies and urban interventions.

Greaves, Mark. God’s management consultants: the Church of England turns to bankers for salvation. The Spectator, July 2015. Web. Accessed June 2017

The institution’s territorial prominence through its land division and emblematic church-buildings has been favourable for the successful management of the institution’s continuous charitable network. By taking advantage of this existing multi-scalar approach, this dissertation proposes the provision of collective infrastructure of housing, education and healthcare. Taking the Church’s original purpose of housing social needs, the proposed network of Parish Centres intends to service the public realm.
This design proposal is based on historical precedents of the English religious institution within the present socio-political context, through a methodological analysis of case studies. The main aim is to envision how can the Church provide adequate services and infrastructure for the necessities of the present-day society.

St. Bartholomew’s Square Moore, Norman. A Brief Relation of  the Past and Present State of the Royal and Religious Foundation of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital. Royal College of Physicians Library, 1895

This project takes into consideration the potential of architecture for the Church of England. It begins with a historic recollection of the institution’s transformative capabilities in accordance with social necessities, incorporating its spatial counterpart – the Church’s pioneering typologies for the provision of services and collective infrastructure. Furthermore, the methodology includes examples of contemporary transformations of church-buildings compared to those brought by the Protestant Reformation. Together with an analysis of historic case studies, all of which developed into design guidelines.

East Wing, 1899. Yeo, Geoffrey. Images of Bart’s. An Illustrated History of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in the City of London. Historical Publications Ltd., 1992. p.93
Comparison was between the historic transformation of the three cases


St. Luke’s Parish Centre is a design proposal for the Church of England, as a first incision to its new role of a public social institution. This first project is designed to be a provocation, through an ambitious architectural an urban agenda. The location was selected with the main intention of challenging the current development market to the eyes of central London. This project surfaces once again the institution into the public realm, challenging typical urban development by the for-profit sector. Nevertheless, this is a theoretical starting point for the experimentation of new and renewed architectural typologies.

The design process allowed for the housing typologies to be simplifies into two types of units: living and service. The living unit is the private space for defined households, which then share a service unit that includes facilities such as bathroom and kitchen, but also space for socializing. The service unit is what connects the housing typology to the outside and the living units can be added depending on the number of inhabitants. This design decisions allowed for new housing typologies to emerge, for example the possibility of having single flat units to include contributing adults within the building, however, granting them more privacy. The Three Unit Flat housing typology illustrates two structural options. One composed by a rigid frame where modifications are possible through furniture arrangements and privacy elements. Opposite, there’s a much more open variation allowing for the modification of partition walls according to living stages. The Four Unit Flat comparison, which keeps the rigid structure, explores the possibility of the services being part of the living units, and keeping that central unit as the shared space for interaction. Lastly, the Two Double Unit Flat takes the privacy degree of the scheme further, allowing for two households to share a larger space.

The considerations gathered along the design process defined the basis of the housing typologies. However, depending on the site itself, these can be adapted to fit specific necessities. In order to illustrate this idea, its adaptation for St. Luke’s Parish Centre is presented.

Read the whole dissertation here.

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