Light and Weight

Sprunt completes a combined church, community centre and nursery in north London


Luke Hayes

St Peter’s Stonegrove, designed by Sprunt Architects, combines a church, community centre and nursery that serve a 1,000-home regeneration of the Stonegrove Estate in Barnet, north London. The building is prominently positioned on an elevated site overlooking green space, and replaces a tired 1960s community church to which its design pays homage, says the architect. A parabolic roof recalls the shape of the former church and acts as an “umbrella”, unifying the building’s three zones.


Large timber louvres suspended from deep eaves on the main elevation form a cloister that shades the church’s main windows and signposts the entrance. Behind the louvres, gabion walls pierce the roof on the southern side to form a tower, in which the original church bell has been rehoused. “The walls give visual weight to the structure, and the appearance of emerging from the earth”, says the architect. “As they wrap around the church and frame its large window, they offer a physical metaphor of the church’s strong community embrace.”

Inside, a corridor from a community cafe within a lobby separates the church from the community centre and nursery above, allowing each to function independently.

The church’s double-height main worship hall, with its high-level window, is designed to draw the gaze upwards, as though towards heaven. Accommodating up to 160 worshippers, the space contains no fixed furnishings or iconography, allowing its use by various denominations, or to host secular events. The underside of the latticed glulam roof structure is exposed, and is intended to recall the upturned keel of St Peter’s boat.

A chapel housed within the gabion walls on the building’s south-west corner can be used for smaller services. It is lit from above by a single skylight, below which an oversized cross stands as a symbolic link between heaven and earth.

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