If you are installing an audio-visual system, or a servery or kitchen, we have learned that the potential users must be involved in the design decisions. Does the architect have experience in such specialist matters?
THE architect who specialises in ancient buildings may or may not have much experience and skill in designing fittings for contemporary facilities, from the servery or kitchen to toilets and other fittings.
Locating your servery in the church is dependent on the advice of the architect, who has skills appropriate to the building’s significance. Once that location is determined, the layout of sinks, cupboards, drawers, dishwasher, and items such as kettles and trays should be explored at length with the people who will use the servery most frequently.
There are many points to consider. Low cupboards for mugs and plates can’t be reached easily by those who can’t bend well; drawers would be better. Consider also: space for bins; turning space when more than one person is in the servery or kitchen; door catches that can be opened by arthritic hands; and more. A rule of thumb is to not accept the fitting of innovative features such as new-style door catches unless the people using the facility have tried them out. Sometimes the architect or designer is so familiar with his or her way of designing that he or she forgets to check these items with a church client.
It is worth while visiting and trying out the serveries in other churches, and having a good look at the lavatory provision while you are there. You may learn most from what you don’t like as a way to identifying what works for you. Various churches have accepted the “toilet under the stairs” solution only to find that the location is far too cramped for disabled access. Your architect will advise you that you are not permitted to fit a lavatory that requires access through the kitchen or server: it must be separate.
Visiting other churches with a group of interested people from your church is invaluable. Ask your hosts what they would do differently if they did the work again; you’ll get a more helpful response than if you ask if there were mistakes. The first approach implies learning together; the second hints at criticism, and will get a less helpful response.
The general look of your new fittings, whether the finishes or the absence of clutter, is a concern not only for all the church’s users but also the authorities who are responsible for ancient churches. After the location, there is consideration of materials, colours, and finishes. Although modern, these must fit quietly into their setting and enhance what is there, not glare as an intrusion.
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