St Joseph Bidford
Landmark church to bring this village community together again
- Project Lead
- Principal Designer
Having made do with a former builder’s workshop as their church for over sixty years, the Parish of St Joseph the Worker in Bidford on Avon is finally poised to realise the congregation’s vision for a new landmark church and community hall in this Warwickshire village. APEC has worked closely and collaboratively with the dedicated Building Committee to develop a design that embodies the Church’s mission and values; it’s to be a place of simple beauty, and in which the wider community can be welcomed.
Early engagement with the congregation revealed what their Church meant to them. It’s a welcoming, friendly and caring place where they can make ‘lifelong friends’ and ‘sing loudly and leave happy.’ In a design workshop, we shared examples of church designs from across the world with parishioners for inspiration and to find out what they liked and didn’t like about the spaces. We watched as workshop participants experimented with different configurations and shapes of spaces, and we listened to their ideas for the new church. A preference towards a radial worship space soon emerged.
It was apparent that there was a deep affection amongst the congregation for their existing building for its simplicity, humility, calmness and intimacy. They wanted the new design to reflect this, with a place of peace, separated from the outside world; with its beauty deriving from its use of natural light and timber in reference to their patron saint, St Joseph the Worker. The resulting design is a space characterised by local limestone (the same used for the Bidford Bridge and many other buildings in the village), softened with the use of timber fixtures and in the ceiling. Large, high level windows help to create an intimate space, with daylight diffused from a roof that rises up towards the altar and musicians.
Although the Parish wants their worship space to be insulated from its external environment, the new church should have a clear and distinctive presence on its prominent village site. The radial layout of the worship space is depicted externally; an embrace to the wider community akin to clasped hands sheltering the congregation inside. We have been collaborating with stained glass artist, Aidan McRae Thomson, to design the focal point of the church.
Parishioners are very active in serving the local community, but have been limited by the church’s lack of suitable spaces as it only has its worship space. The new building will make a positive contribution to the village by creating spaces to support more activities addressing local needs, including social isolation. We stood outside the local supermarket to meet local people to find out what they need in the area. They wanted a place to exercise, to drink coffee, to meet people, to learn, for children to play, and for people to be cared for.
The Parish wants an accessible and inclusive design and layout that encourages and welcomes people from the wider community. Red brick wings to the church contrast with the limestone, whilst enhancing the significance of the new worship space. The entrance is carved into the brick with timber cladding to create a warm welcome, leading to a space where people will be greeted with the smell of fresh coffee and views into the worship space.
There will be a large hall and smaller activity room that can become an extension of the worship space. These spaces will create the backdrop for memories of people coming together to share meals cooked in the adjoining kitchen, of local choir, dance and theatre groups sharing their creativity, and of children filling the spaces with laughter as they weave in and out of the adjacent gardens.
St Joseph the Worker Church has waited over 70 years for their permanent place of worship. Now a planning application has been submitted and their vision is slowly coming to life.
“The design of the church is stunning and I am sure it will bring in more people. I love the simplicity and airy feel of the main collective worship area.”Parishioner
“It looks beautiful and will be a great asset not just to the catholic church but the village. I really hope it goes ahead.”Bidford on Avon Resident
“Uplifting - eyes are led upwards both outside and inside - well done - this will be truly magnificent.”Parishioner
“Excellent! So exciting! Can't wait!”Bidford on Avon Resident
“I think the design is beautiful. The worship space appears peaceful and inclusive... The design of the building is welcoming for all and I look forward to sharing it with the wider community. I love the design of the stained glass windows and I think the church will stand out as a beacon above Tower Hill.”Parishioner