St Johns Church Development

Client: Vestry of St John’s Church of the Evangelist

St John’s is a church with considerable public presence. Pass by the corner of Princes Street and Lothian Road and you will see a beautiful historic building, go inside and you will be embraced by its colour and complexity. Ask people about St John’s and they are as likely to mention its murals or stance on social justice and fair trade as they are its architecture. St John’s is not just a building, its vitality springs from the people who use the building, people committed to the belief that healthy city living derives from more than mere commerce.

LDN’s proposals for the redevelopment of St John’s, which have just been completed, address the needs of the congregation and a variety of groups, businesses and charities, as well as visiting members of the public who use the building to create the life of the church.

A new, more prominent and welcoming entrance has been created to the west side of the existing Church Hall, facing Lothian Road, by relocating the stonework and central arched opening from the east gable. A new, large arched opening has been formed in the east gable, providing a direct link through to the new extension on the east side of the existing Church Hall which faces the beautiful tree-scape of the adjacent churchyards and Princes Street Gardens beyond.

Internally the existing Church Hall and lower level accommodation have been reorganised and extended to create a flexible Hall space at street level, which can be separated from or combined with the adjacent new Meeting Rooms. The new Hall has its own Kitchen Servery with service lift connection to the Café Kitchen below, allowing it to cater for a variety of functions, and a direct link to the existing Dormitory Garden outside. Offices have been relocated on a new mezzanine floor level created above in the existing Church Hall with a Reception Office at street level beside the new entrance. Cafe and Retail Units have been reorganised at the lower level to create the link between the Cafe Kitchen and the Hall above. A new  stair and lift are located centrally providing an accessible link between all three levels of the development and from Princes Street down to the churchyard, allowing users to connect and interact in ways that were not previously possible.

One of the most significant challenges we faced was the severely constrained nature of the site with major road arteries on two sides and inaccessible, tiered graveyards on the other two. LDN developed a site access plan which described where temporary accommodation could be positioned, where and when deliveries of materials could take place and the route through the site for those materials. The site plan also included the positioning of a temporary bookshop to help ensure that people accustomed to using the Cornerstone Bookshop would not lose the habit during the development of the refurbished premises. Most importantly, the Church remained in uninterrupted use throughout the 18 months of building operations.

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