Annecy Attlee: The Assembly Rooms


London is a world city. It is simultaneously expanding and contracting, growing ever-outwards – and upwards – yet on the brink of divorce from the neighbouring continent. The next generation of designers must deliver fresh thinking to tackle issues that range from the scale of the street to global climate change. We asked pioneering graduates from the LSA how they’d adapt London to ensure that it is inclusive of its citizens, integrated with nature and fit for the future

Throughout London, churches lacking adequate worship space – particularly those with largely immigrant congregations – have gathered in industrial buildings. They take advantage of large, flexible spaces in low-value areas with more affordable rent, repurposing sheds and cheaply-built office and studio space. In several ways, churches and industrial spaces have aligned needs. Both require large spaces. Both have potentially antisocial impact through noise and traffic pollution. Each adhere to rhythmic routine and ritual.

As change-of-use permission from industrial to community space is complex and difficult to achieve, the position of many of these churches is precarious, and their communities are under threat. They require more permanent, assigned space where they can put down roots. Binding these at-risk communities with their neighbours – manufacturers also under threat – can give both typologies greater staying power.

This project celebrates the collision of typologies by accommodating worship space alongside industrial and maker spaces within the arches of existing railway viaducts in Bermondsey. Different users are provided with spaces in refurbished railway arches, between which a series of shared facilities, including a kitchen, canteen and large assembly rooms, may be negotiated for use by different organisations.

The architecture draws from the Gothic cathedral, the foundry and factory, and civic infrastructure, with details revealing the spilling and collision of different territories.