Coulson Building Group were appointed as main contractor to redevelop the St Columba’s Church on Downing Street alongside Archanagel as lead designer. This is where the congregation of the Emmanuel United Reformed Church will be calling their new home. The major redevelopment has been set up to create an open, inclusive church and community centre in the heart of Cambridge. The project is split up into two areas; the main church and the hub/Gibson hall of which have undergone a retrofit to make a sustainable and environmentally friendly church.
The site was made up of three overlapping rectangles – the church and two halls – in the form of a zigzag; this made the circulation confusing and was very wasteful of space. While the church stands prominently on a corner with street frontage on two sides, there were previously no views into the building, the access into it was cramped, and the overall effect off-putting.
However, the building was already well-used by the church and community through the week, and has now been reshaped to better accommodate the life within it. The central hall has been converted into a double-height community hub with café tables and a catering kitchen, and down one side meeting rooms on two levels. From this hub all other parts of the building are accessed. At the back of the site the existing Gibson Hall has been enlarged, and the existing courtyard garden reclaimed to create a hidden oasis in the centre of the city.
At the front, the church has been reordered, with more flexible seating and a new internal room for mid-sized meetings and the ‘NightLite’ drop-in safe space on Saturday nights. New openings have been inserted into the existing Downing Street frontage to allow views into the building from the street and the bus stops opposite, and to allow the life of the building out. A new, more generous and well-lit entrance has been created to Downing Place, providing for the first time an inviting and accessible front door to the church. Wherever possible opportunities have been taken to lower energy usage, including insulating the historic fabric, secondary glazing and photovolatic panels.
Being a city centre project, Coulson’s had to work within the constraints and alongside other shops/restaurants and businesses. We came up with a very robust delivery schedule of which was circulated to all other neighbouring buildings to ensure no deliveries clashed and had a public liaison manager onsite at all times. We also built a temporary offloading bay for safe removal of materials and a place to temporarily store materials so not to get in the way of the public. Coulson Joinery supplied and installed all the high quality joinery and Coulson’s services provided the full M&E installation
The project has also recently been shortlisted for the British Construction Industry Awards for ‘Social Infrastructure Project of the Year‘