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Competition: St Martin’s Church, Brighton

Colander Associates has launched an ideas contest to rethink the future of Grade II*-listed St Martin’s Church in Brighton (Deadline: 12 September)

Open to multidisciplinary teams of architects, landscape architects, engineers and developers, the competition seeks ‘practical, exciting and commercially viable’ concepts to redevelop the 1875 city centre landmark.

The call for ideas aims to identify new economically-sustainable uses for the George Somers Leigh Clarke-designed church located around 1.8km north of Brighton seafront. The overall winner will receive £10,000 and two runners-up will also take home £6,000 each.

St Martin’s Church, Brighton

St Martin’s Church, Brighton

St Martin’s Church, Brighton

According to the brief: ‘This competition invites teams to think creatively about St Martin’s church and generate innovative but commercially sustainable new uses for this building, which is currently underused and in danger of falling into disrepair. Whilst this is not a live project the competition hopes to bring forward solutions that could be implemented in the future.

‘The client, The Diocese of Chichester, supported by A Better Brighton & Hove, is looking to design teams which can include investors, developers or end users, who can demonstrate a viable and practical scheme which is creative and will be the springboard to restoration of this building with huge potential.’

St Martin’s Church was constructed in the Gothic Revival style in 1875. The building, located a short distance from the Brighton Pavilion, is used for regular Church of England services.

The call for concepts aims to identify practical new solutions to re-energise the Lewes Road complex and secure for the historic building an economically-sustainable future.

Interested teams must first submit two A2-sized display boards along with a brief textual project description. Three shortlisted teams will then be invited to further develop their proposals and attend an interview with the jury.

How to apply


The registration deadline is 5pm on 12 September and submissions must be completed by 1pm on 17 September

Contact details


Visit the competition website for more information

Q&A with Peter J Field

The Lord-Lieutenant of East Sussex discusses his ambitions for the competition

Peter J Field

Peter J Field

Peter J Field

Why are your holding an ideas competition to identify a new future for St Martin’s Church, Brighton?

This is a Grade II*-listed building where a radical approach needs to be taken to secure its future. It is one of many in Brighton & Hove and I suspect around the United Kingdom which the Diocese of Chichester – and I am sure other dioceses with dwindling congregations and limited resources – wants to bring back into use. Restoring such buildings and developing new uses is not uncommon, but what is new about this competition is the significance of the building and that we want to ensure its sympathetic restoration in a way that can be implemented. To get the best solution we need to spread the net wide to see who is capable of meeting the need.

What is your vision for the historic city centre church?

Good design is fundamental to any project, be it new-build or heritage restoration. We hope that contestant teams will spend time taking in the enormity of both the building and the possibilities for its future use. It was built over 150 years ago and we want to see an approach that sees it meeting the needs of the community for at least another 150 years given its strategic location.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

The competition is open to everyone who meets the entry criteria – small or large, local, national and international. We do not want to restrict ideas or talent.

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

We believe our approach to this competition may well set the benchmark for a new form of competition – one that sets out the way listed heritage buildings can and should be saved. If it works, who knows what will come next.

Are there any other recent church regeneration projects you have been impressed by?

There are some wonderful examples all over the country; too many to mention and it would be unfair to single any one out. Perhaps the difference here to note is the compilation of the teams that will enter and what we want to achieve beyond the design.


St Peter’s Church Epping case study: Q&A with Katy Marks and Cathy Hawley

The director and architect at Citizens Design Bureau discusses lessons learned upgrading St Peter’s Church in Epping, England

How will your contest-winning project revamp and upgrade St Peter’s Church, Epping?

St Peter-in-the-Forest, and, in particular, its west façade, is suffering significant and escalating material and structural damage to its fabric due to the subsidence of its 1950s extension. This situation has placed the Grade II-listed church on the Buildings at Risk Register and it is in urgent need of remedial action. Our proposals seek to bring an intimacy to worship and make space within the existing body of the church for community use and facilities. To this end, we are subdividing the nave and inserting a new mezzanine to the west end. There is an emphasis on the restoration of the west façade, which will now face directly out into the forest. Currently blocked-up arches are to be opened and glazed to form a loggia-like entrance space with a café/reception opening out on to a new forest terrace with a fire pit. With a smaller congregation requiring less space for worship, the proposal returns the church to its pre-1950s footprint and renders denser and more efficient the space within the original building envelope. Facilities within the churchyard, including a fire pit, vegetable patches and wild garden, will host children for forest school classes.

Citizens Design Bureau's contest winning scheme for St. Peter’s Church in Epping Forest

Citizens Design Bureau’s contest winning scheme for St. Peter’s Church in Epping Forest

Citizens Design Bureau’s contest winning scheme for St. Peter’s Church in Epping Forest

Which architectural, material, visual and other methods did you harness in your design?

We carefully considered the status of a small underfunded Church of England parish and realised that we needed to offer some harsh realities as part of our competition response. The brief asked for a new extension, renovations, landscape improvements, a meditation space etc. Their budget clearly wasn’t able to cover that – by a long way – so our approach was to in fact reduce the building footprint and help the client and community find the value, the atmosphere and the beauty in what they already have.

Father Paul Trathen, vicar of St Peter-in-the-Forest, with the 1:1 mock  up of the subdivision of the church

Father Paul Trathen, vicar of St Peter-in-the-Forest, with the 1:1 mock up of the subdivision of the church

Father Paul Trathen, vicar of St Peter-in-the-Forest, with the 1:1 mock up of the subdivision of the church

A participatory consultative and testing process, of workshops and ‘scratch’ events to develop, test and hone key aspects of the brief, was organised at the church and in the forest. These sought to engage communities from passing visitors to local schoolchildren to the more established congregation. The events have looked at the use of the forest for yoga classes, forest school, nature trails and associated events. 1:1 mock ups of the new rear wall to the space of worship and of elongated finger windows were installed and kept in place for a Sunday worship. This allowed opinions to be gathered, and the organization and use of the newly configured spaces to be tested.

The design was developed through model, sketch and rendered section as well as at 1:1. It was informed throughout by conservation concerns and principles. The project now has Planning and Diocese permissions and is awaiting the HLF Stage 2 decision.

What advice would you have to contest participants on regenerating St Martin’s Church Brighton?

A pragmatism about cost and conservation requirements are important, even at competition stage.

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