Sunday, 10 July 2011
St Pauls on Bow Common, Burdett Road, 03.07.11
The original church was built just 150 years ago when the East End was beginning to emerge as a populated area after centuries of being no more than grazing land (hence the name Bow Common). The first St Pauls was a lofty Victorian Gothic church built in 1858 with an incredibly large spire. Sadly during the Blitz of World War 2 in 1941 incendiaries gutted the church, reducing it to a shell. It took over a decade for War Reparation funds to finance the building of a new church under the requirement that it seated a minimum of 500 people. Led by the self-declared young radical Reverend Gresham Kirkby who hired designer Keith Murray and architect Robert Maguire under the mission to re-evaluate how earliest forms of church architecture can reveal the true roots of Christian worship. Kirkby, Murray and Maguire all shared a rebellious belief that the architecture should break down institutional hierarchies and create a worshipping community that formed one body under Christ. Taking a post-modern approach to church architecture they claimed to borrow from the classical forms and Renaisance Revival – to the fundamental geometry square and circle – influences owing a debt to Brunschella, Palladio and Bramante. The oddness of the building comes from this amalgamation of traditional architectural ideas being produced by 20th century materials leading to a building that appears futuristic by the sheer fact it does not belong to a set era (except 1960s TV Sci Fi). Kirkby, Murray and Maguire were not interested in aliens but delivering a building that created an inclusive space that reflected the nature of liturgy, however I would argue regardless of the trio’s intention the unconventional ethos and design of the building has clear artistic aspirations.