In April 2019 Studio B.a.d where commissioned to undertake a complete overview of the wonderful existing church and the many spaces that give enormous opportunity to add light and conversation. So that the community can reengage with this incredible structure. It is our hope and belief that the community will continue to serve the wider Community in Southsea and Portsmouth.
The church is on High land End Road is a major West – East artery, that leads deep into the heart of Portsea Island and beyond. St Margaret's Church sits on a key corner of this artery, opposite the wonderful Highland Road Cemetery. Highland Road Cemetery, has played an important part in Southsea history with many decorated seamen and women from many historical battles. Thomas Ellis Owen sold the land to the Burial board and subsequently, designed the early phases, including the lodge and chapel.
Our first role was to listen. To listen carefully, long and hard. We held a major community engagement event where we assiduously recorded the voices of those present, but we have also made a number of small-scale visits to watch and to listen to wonderful stories. Those diverse voices have guided and informed the development of this design strategy and encouraged a reimaging of the Church for the 20th Century. At the centre of the strategy sits the concept of ‘meanwhile architecture’; a methodology through which an innovative strategy can be deliver incrementally as resources allow. The strategy also allows for deviation top occur as identified need changes. It is also a ‘bottom-up’ rather than ‘top-down’ process attentive to the needs of the congregation and the wider community.
This strategy defines a number of core elements delivered across time, which are, Revealing; Creative demolitions and removals to enable subsequent phases.
Internally we have looked at carefully developing some very simple robust furniture that can be adapted to serve, the many purposes required and begins to carefully create rooms and space with out walls and ceilings.
Entry of embrace; A newly formed place of entry that is purposefully permeable to the urban realm. This new entry place contains not just a means of entry, but also a café and foodbank and is lit at high level by a light scoop. This is a space for gathering, in which stories are told, secrets shared, wise words given. This is a space in which those in need are supported with food, clothing or words of comfort and encouragement.
This strategy is born of the words etched upon the Church Wall suggesting the Maggies is not the place for perfect souls but rather for imperfect souls; which led us to the words of Leonard Cohen:
‘There is a crack in everything – that’s how the light gets it’.