Somerset West Church

Name Somerset West Church
Client Christ Church Somerset West – REACH
Location Somerset West
Status Ongoing

The existing church needed to double in size to accommodate a growing congregation – the church could not be easily extended so it was decided to build a new church and to re-use the original church as a space for children. The priest, Gavin Millard, is an architect who was educated at Wits University in the 1980’s before entering the priesthood. He was an extraordinary client as he understood our intentions – not only was he a great facilitator but also added immeasurably to the process through wise counsel.

The new church needed to be able to expand and contract easily from 450 to 900 people depending upon the occasion. A circle embedded in a square was developed as the plan form – the circle is large enough to accommodate 450 people and the surrounding square space the balance. The circular space has a dramatic vertical dimension which gives it a singular presence and brings the priest into close proximity with the congregation as he is never more than 15 meters from anyone in the audience.

Natural light is brought down into the circular volume from the roof and a cross is formed by the play of the solid and void elements of the roof-light. The space was designed to ensure that sound reflections are reduced to the minimum – the vertical wall above the main floor is treated as a multi facetted acoustic brick wall. The entrance court brings the old and new churches into alignment along a longitudinal axis.