Open House London 2011: Swiss Church London

 

open house london 2011 swiss church
Swiss Church London, 79 Endell Street.  Photo © 2011 Heather Shimmin

DESCRIPTION

The Swiss Church London was built on Endell Street in the 1850s (the original church was built on Moor Street, Soho in 1775) and was listed Grade II by English Heritage in 1973.

The Swiss Church has just recently completed a major multi-million pound makeover. The redesign was done by Swiss Architects Christ & Gantenbein and was completed right before Open House London. The aim was to “restore and enhance the building in terms of attractiveness and functionality.”  The walls, ceilings, and floors were in desperate need of repair.

A skylight was added in the nave to let in natural light. All color was eliminated from the walls and ceiling (previously, the cove behind the alter was painted a bright blue).

A two-storey addition at the back of the nave gives the church additional office, administrative, and storage space. The freestanding glass structure allows views of the organ and reflects the 19th century architectural features.

THOUGHTS

From the brochure, the Swiss Church sounded amazing; in person it left much to be desired. It could be that I was expecting the wealth and opulence I so love and enjoy in other  hurches – the walls dripping in gold, the byzantine icons, tombs of deceased saints and bishops. This Swiss Church’s

hite walls, white ceilings, and light floorboards are rather ho-hum. The only decorations, if you can call it that, are three black plaques on the wall.

Apparently, the lack of color and imagery inside the church is so that the “congregation can focus and not be distracted” from their worship. I found the space  devoid of any spirituality and I left the building feeling cold and isolated.

swiss church london
 Organ pipes, Swiss Church London. Photo ©Heather Shimmin

The white of the walls was a cool white, the altar and cross, plain and generic. They could have picked them up at a thrift store, which is fine, but they do not have any relationship to the
building.

The 21st century addition at the rear of the nave was pretty well done. There was a very small space in which they had to work, perhaps 20 feet by 40 feet. The addition is a two-storey glass enclosure. The organ is visible to the congregation from below, while the offices are enclosed with etched glass, giving privacy to the workers as well as concealing the day-to-day accouterments of administration work. A lift was installed; more for administration than for congregation stays on the ground disabled access to the church seeing the floor.

In order to generate revenue, like so many other churches now, the Swiss Church hosts cultural events, mostly music concerts for £10 a ticket, which includes a glass of wine. The lists of concerts seem mediocre so I haven’t gone to any of them, but their ticket prices are about what other churches are charging for an evening of music and culture. And you get the added bonus of  a glass of vino.

Overall, the addition to the church was well carried out and utilized the limited space available. Was it worth millions of pounds? Probably not. The church, like so many others, are scrambling to find ways in which to generate funds. This shift of focus may be the cause of needing administrative space, as the church no longer is functioning only as a church, but as a concert venue.

 

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Comments

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