New £5m church to inspire Lozells community in Birmingham
Jan 11 2010 By Tom Fleming
Tom Fleming looks at a project that is helping to transform one of the city’s toughest neighbourhoods.
A spectacular new multi-million pound church – believed to be the biggest new-build in Birmingham in the past 20 years – has been unveiled to the public.
Designed by London-based Paul Henry Architects and built by Midlands’ firm Adonis Construction, the 1,000-capacity New Testament Church of God church and community centre in Lozells was a decade in the making.
Built at a cost of more than £5 million, funding for the project was raised entirely by the church’s supporters.
Now, the 2,500 sq ft building stands tall on the corner of Lozells Road and George Street in an area that in the past has been socially challenged due to its widely diverse cultural and ethnic population.
It is hoped the new church – which features extensive community facilities - will make positive steps towards building better relationships between local neighbourhoods that unfortunately became the focus of high profile disturbances in 2005.
A glance at Paul Henry’s CV reveals he has had many experiences qualify him to lead a team to realise the client’s brief to deliver a community-focused building.
Mr Henry spent seven years working in Berlin in the years after the wall came down, when the mission to unite divided communities was one of Europe’s most monumental challenges.
Although it’s not a parallel Paul Henry places much emphasis on, he does agree that similarly the New Testament Church of God project “is all about unifying communities”.
Certainly the sheer scale of the project is expected to make it a communal talking point.
Built on the site of the former 19th century Aston Villa Methodist Church, which was demolished back in 2007, the new church now dwarfs its predecessor.
However, thanks to a carefully executed design and meticulous choice of building materials, it does not impose on its surroundings – a diverse mixture of 19th century terraces and shops in the heart of a conservation area.
Mr Henry explained: “We had to think really carefully about the scale of the building as we wanted to address the local context and be sensitive to it, creating a building that would respect the old in a modern way.”
In order to achieve this, bricks were locally sourced to be sympathetic to the nearby terrace streets and a large basement was created in order to keep the overall height of the building lower than was originally proposed.
In fact, the overall stately and civic feel of the building is very much in keeping with its Victorian surroundings, and visually it’s striking, elongated purple and blue stained-glass windows – which have echoes of Berlin’s flagship Kaiser Wilhelm memorial church - are its most modern feature.
Even the stained glass is inspired by tradition.
Each shade of colour used has been assigned to a musical note which, if played in order from left to right play out the church’s favourite hymn, ‘Great is Thy Faithfulness’.
The interior of the building benefits from a very high specification.
Its two-tiered auditorium has been designed to maximise acoustic capability whilst minimising echoing and, in addition, each of the 1,000 seats enjoys full vision.