Stonegrove Church and Community Centre
St Peter’s Stonegrove is a new community building combining a church, community centre and nursery, acting as the hub for a 1,000 home regeneration of the Stonegrove Estate in Barnet, north London. Replacing a cherished 1960s community church that had fallen into disrepair, the design deliberately pays homage to the previous building while providing the community with a new and adaptable facility.
The new community building acts as a focal point within its surrounds, occupying an elevated site overlooking an expansive green space. The building’s location and design aims to emphasise its presence within the community, reminiscent of how older, more traditional churches are positioned within their neighbourhoods.
Large timber louvres are suspended from deep eaves on the main elevation, forming a cloister that shades the church’s main windows from excessive solar gain and creating a highly distinctive facade, sign posting the building’s entrance. Characterising the scheme, the louvres are carefully positioned so that on 29 June each year - St Peter’s Day - sunlight fully enters the church.
Behind the louvres, gabion walls pierce the roof on the southern side of the church to form a bell tower, where the original church bell has been rehoused. The walls give weight to the structure and provide the appearance of emerging from the earth; as they wrap around the church and frame its large window, they offer a physical metaphor of the church’s strong community embrace. Further interest to the building facade is provided by Fibreline composite panels: an innovative lightweight material whose colour changes with daylight levels, and which continues as the principal cladding for the adjoining community centre and nursery. A distinctive parabolic roof references the shape of the former church and acts as an umbrella, unifying the three distinct zones within the building.
Inside, a corridor from an inviting community café housed within a generous lobby, neatly separates the church from the community centre and nursery above, allowing each element to function independently.
The church’s main worship hall is a large double height space which, like a Gothic nave, is designed to draw the gaze upwards towards heaven. Accommodating up to 160 worshippers, the space contains no fixed furnishings or iconography, allowing the Edgware Parish Team to share their space with other denominations and host secular events. A large window pays further reference to the former church and floods the space with light from above. The exposed underside of a latticed Glulam roof structure provides an impressive focal point within the space, designed to represent the upturned keel of St Peter’s boat.
A smaller chapel, housed within the gabion walls on the building’s south west corner, is a tranquil devotional space for smaller services and gatherings, and is lit from above by a single skylight. Beneath the skylight, an oversized cross provides as a symbolic link between earth and heaven, while a change in level pays reference to the Roman catacombs apparent in the previous church.
The project has been excavated into the ground floor, reducing the overall height of the building and subsequently allowing for a better relationship in terms of massing with surrounding residential blocks. Extensive landscaping and the provision of ample green space anchor the scheme into its surroundings, providing an attractive outlook for the surrounding homes and a safe place for the community to congregate, rest and play.
The brief for the project was developed through extensive consultation with the Stonegrove Community Trust, whose trustees come from the church and wider community. Since the opening of the building in July 2016, the congregation has grown significantly. Multiple organisations now occupy the building, such as Dalo – a local charity set up to help young people with learning difficulties and disabilities - Stonegrove Youth Project and a nursery, all of which demonstrate the social value of the church and the breadth of the community that uses the facilities.