St Mary Redcliffe Design Competition launched

Famous Bristol church with links to America seeks architect for new social, exhibition and support spaces

Lr Emilywhitfield Wicks 01 10 15 Stmaryredcliffe 132
© Malcolm Reading Consultants / Emily Whitfield-Wicks

St Mary Redcliffe and Malcolm Reading Consultants (MRC) today [November 26, 2015] launched the St Mary Redcliffe Design Competition.

The two-stage design competition seeks an outstanding architectural team for the £12-15m project, which will give the church new community, social and support facilities. The initiative is linked to wider regeneration plans, placing the church at the heart of a new urban village within Bristol’s city centre.

Grade I listed and the architectural equivalent of many European cathedrals, the church is one of the largest parish churches in England and notable for its connection with many important historical figures, including George Frederick Handel and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It has links with America through artefacts relating to John Cabot’s voyage of 1497 and Admiral Penn; the latter, the namesake of Pennsylvania, is buried within the church.

Elizabeth I described it as ‘the fairest, goodliest and most famous parish church in England’.

St Mary Redcliffe attracts tens of thousands of visitors and tourists annually. Built, and then re-built, over a 300-year period from the early 13th century to the 15th century, the church embodies magnificence, but has always lacked sufficient community and support spaces for its vital work in one of the most deprived wards in the country.

The development project, the focus of this design competition, will incorporate a range of facilities within a building or buildings: administrative and support spaces, exhibition spaces, a café, a shop, a meeting hall, and an expanded/new community centre.

The Reverend Dan Tyndall, vicar of St Mary Redcliffe, said:

‘St Mary Redcliffe is both a living church and a national landmark. Not only do we plan to expand our local outreach and mission but also increase people’s delight and enjoyment of the church. Our ambition is to create an outstanding experience for all, creating a welcoming atmosphere, offering hospitality and showing off some of our many treasures – which are currently locked away.
‘We’re searching for a team who will be really energised and excited by this project, who will understand the local and the international, the historic and progressive aspects of this fascinating challenge.’

Malcolm Reading, architect and competition organiser, said:

‘This is a heart-stoppingly beautiful building, which has suffered from unsympathetic post-war planning – it has been stranded in a road network.
‘The proposed redevelopment will position the church at the centre of Redcliffe, presenting the opportunity for it to become a true centrepiece, serving both its neighbouring community and national and international visitors.
‘This is a project that has diverse appeal. The project budget is good and, we think, this is a great opportunity for architects. We can see a place for start-up practices as well as established names on the shortlist. The client has spent two years carefully planning the competition and is genuinely open-minded about finding the right team to work with them over the long term.’

The competition project will run concurrently with a wider regeneration project, The Redcliffe Neighbourhood Development Plan, which makes the church the focus of a new urban village within the Redcliffe area.

At the first stage of the design competition, Expressions of Interest are sought (rather than designs); at the second stage, up to five shortlisted teams will be asked to produce concept designs. To enter the competition, architects will need to visit the competition website.

The competition is being run in accordance with European Union procurement guidelines under the Restricted Procedure. Competitors will need to upload their responses through the Delta procurement portal via the web address above.

The competition jury includes journalist, broadcaster and author Simon Jenkins, and Bristol-based contemporary artist Luke Jerram, who was responsible for the Park and Slide installation, which last year turned Bristol’s Park Street into a giant water slide.

Malcolm Reading will advise the jury.

The deadline for Expressions of Interest is Friday, 15 January 2016, the shortlist for the second stage will be announced in February and, following a public exhibition of the shortlisted entries, the winning team is expected to be announced in late May 2016.