Studio BAD Architects have undertaken a feasibility study for the Life Church in central Southampton, a reimagination of The Boathouse, an existing, historic building. The client brief is to renovate the building to create a new religious focal point for Southampton, with space to enable members to serve the local community more effectively, within a comfortable, sympathetic renovation of the building and a stronger visual presence.

The building is located on a prominent corner plot, situated on a main artery road just north of the city center, as part of a historic Georgian terrace which sits within a conservation area. Due to the sloping topology of the site the building has two entrances, with a ground and lower ground floor level off the two main axis of the site.

A general sympathetic refurbishment is needed throughout the entire building, to strip back the layers that have been added over the years, to reassess the space and to reveal the many valuable historic features internally and externally. The key plans for the internal space are to locate the café on the ground floor with flexible meeting spaces, to create a warm and welcoming entrance and active frontage to the street. The replanning of the upper levels will deliver an auditorium with high tech AV system, office space, meeting rooms, accommodation and roof terrace.

Our feasibility has developed three concepts for the building, all to work sympathetically with the historic architecture, increasing the natural light internally and delivering a contemporary twist to deliver a warm and welcoming space. The design strategy for each concept has been guided by a principle of incremental design, to allow the building to develop as resources allow.

Concept One – Sculptural Timber
The concept brings wood timber fins into the building, on the ground floor a timber lining is inserted within the building to form a multitude of functional spaces, café and main gathering space. The timber lining is then carried vertically through the building, creating a central spine of fins as an organic, sculptural object. On each floor the timber fin lining will be integrated in some way, bringing a beautiful organic texture to the interior.

Concept Two – Shelter
The concept also uses timber fins within the interior, this design revolves around a curved internal semi-open enclosure of timber that wraps up part of the wall and ceiling, to offer a notion to rescue and protect those within.

The timber curve motif is then used throughout the building, creating a unified look and feel to the building, offering a sense of shelter throughout.

Concept Three – Transparency
The concept integrates as much transparency into the building as possible, through the installation of glazing, to flood the interior with natural light. On the ground floor a central axis of multi-function spaces would be built, in parallel with the main road, with glazed gaps to allow light to travel through deep into the center of the building, with the rest of the ground floor left with movable, flexible seating.

Practice : Studio: B.A.D Architects

Time Scale: October 2021 – ongoing

Budget: Confidential

Location: Southampton, Hampshire

Client: The Life Church