Designed by Nicolas Pople Architects, The Christian Community’s new £1.9m church in Stroud, Gloucestershire, is a highly sculptural building that makes extensive use of cross laminated timber. The decision to use CLT was driven by three factors explains the architect. First it provided the freedom to produce a form in which non-orthogonal geometries could harmonise with the structure. Second was sustainability in terms of carbon sequestration, and third the material complemented the highly restricted nature of the site.
The design process involved a great deal of client participation with visualisations and workshops, leading to large scale physical models. Once funding was assured, the detailed design work with structural engineer Corbett Tasker involved digital 3D modelling and then input on fabrication for the CLT components, which were made by Zublin in Munich.
Ground-floor plan, roof plan; long section; cross section
The church section references historical places of worship dating back to the early gothic period: a large volume supported by two smaller ones on either side. The north and south servant spaces act as buttresses to the worship space and help support the main spans. Here, the CLT internal flying buttresses are exposed, meaning the structural forces transferring weight downwards can be experienced.
The north servant wing, which contains the plant room and toilets, helps reduce noise from the nearby road. The facade is deliberately blank, apart from the projecting window of the church office near the entrance canopy. On the south wing – set on top of the old brick garden wall – are the wake room, sacramental consultation room and vestry. The foyer cuts across the building so that on entering one can see straight through to the garden and hills beyond. At this point, the structure becomes a kind of tail encompassing a central rooflight and terminating in a short CLT wall.
The long section roof profile is geometrically half of the plan. The folded walls of the worship space contain six glass-to-glass folded windows – something that was only achievable using digital design software. Some of the CLT panels are not vertical and lean slightly in the direction of the altar wall. This is purely to give visual movement to space and was probably the most challenging thing we achieved technically, says the architect.