New ‘vibrant’ building for new church

05 October 2018

The sales of the church’s 1950s building in Bethnal Green has funded the new location

JACK HOBHOUSE

A HAMMERED concrete cross is among the features of a new development in the East End of London, named after a Victorian Christian activist and featuring a church, community kitchen, and foodbank store.

The Macpherson apartments, named after Annie Macpherson, an associate of Dr Barnardo, are situated in a block that includes a new building for Bethnal Green Mission Church. The sale of the church’s 1950s building, in a prime location in the Bethnal Green Gardens Conservation Area, has funded the new church, which is situated at the heart of the development.

Mike Houston, the Minister of Bethnal Green Mission Church, a Free Evangelical Church that has been part of the community for more than 150 years, said that its new building would offer “a welcoming, vibrant, and accessible space for people in our local community, and with a design which connects our rich history with our contemporary needs and expression”.

JACK HOBHOUSEJACK HOBHOUSE

The church reaches up two storeys in the concrete six-storey block, and features a blue-and-green stained-glass window, created by the designer Coralie Bickford-Smith.

A director at the architects, Gatti Routh Rhodes, Richard Gatti, said that the firm had “wanted to express that idea of church as a part of the community, as a part of the city that it serves in the architecture. For us, that meant balancing an open and welcoming entrance with elements that signal ‘church’, such as the stained glass . . and the hammered concrete cross, whilst integrating the whole into a city block — creating a small piece of the city it represents.”

A four-bedroom minister’s flat has been created on the second floor of the block, and a basement will house community facilities including a foodbank, a night shelter, after-school clubs, youth groups, and Christian-Muslim interfaith projects. The first floor will house charity and co-working spaces; and 14 private residential accommodation fills the remaining floors. The ground-floor café, the Beehive, is a another reference to the church’s founder, who set up a children’s refuge in 1869 with the same name.

After setting up homes for destitute children in London, Macpherson, a Scottish Evangelical, became an advocate for child emigration, taking thousands of orphans and street children to Canada.

None of the apartments in the Macpherson block are classed as affordable housing, but half of the building is given up to community functions.

A director at the developers, Thornsett, Bernadette Cunningham, said that the building was “a new landmark for east London”.

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