St Margaret’s Church is located in the heart of Portsea, serving the wide community of Portsmouth and Southsea. The existing building was in need of some renovation which has allowed this enormous opportunity, to review and reinterpret the church building and what it could offer to the community, drawing people to reengage with this incredible building.

Studio : B.A.D Architects where  commissioned to undertake a complete architectural overview of the wonderful existing church. The first, most important, role was to listen carefully to what all stakeholders were really saying. It was essential to hold major community engagement events where we assiduously recorded the voices of those present, but we have also made a number of small-scale visits to watch and to listen to wonderful stories of those who use, and love St Margaret’s.

Those diverse voices guided and informed the development of this design strategy and encouraged a reimagining of the Church for the 21st Century. At the centre of the strategy sits the concept of ‘meanwhile architecture’; a methodology through which an innovative strategy can be deliver architectural changes incrementally as resources allow. The strategy also allows for deviation to occur as identified need changes.

Phase one of the plan has been completed which has delivered a usable, warm church with zoned underfloor heating (with the installation of air sourced heat pump) and beautiful and robust concrete floor though-out the whole church. New washroom facilities were installed and a café within the nave, we also created retail space, food bank and children’s play area within the nave with multi-functional furniture that can be moved to create different areas as needed, a cost effective approach that gives flexibility to the space.

The front door was a key concern as the existing 1950’s entrance was austere and the physical door was no longer thermally insulating or strong enough. The new contemporary door echo’s the previous design, with additional glazing to offer glimpses inside which break down threshold barrier.

We installed a beautiful birch door off the nave, to create a private Sunday School area. The design of the door reflects the churches ethos, with glazed cut outs offering a welcoming connectivity, let the light out to the community and accepting all.

A second phase, yet to be put in place, will focused reinvigorate the church to the community through the installation of a new, contemporary copper clad porch. The design will be a visual statement that activates the front of the church, engaging with the public realm.

An amazing collaborative project, we could not be prouder to see the rebirth of the church, which is now once again a focal point of the local community. We are currently working on Phase Two of the project, to further enhance the community engagement.

Our design strategy is born of the words etched upon the Church Wall suggesting that St Margaret’s is not the place for perfect souls but rather for imperfect souls; which led us to the words of Leonard Cohen:


There is a crack in everything – that’s how the light gets it’.

Leonard Cohen



RIBA Journal February 2022

RIBA Journal January 2022

AJ Building Library March 2022

Practice : Studio: B.A.D Architects

Time Scale: April 2019 – October 2021

Budget: £500,000

Location: Portsmouth, Hampshire

Client: St Margarets Church

AJ Small Projects Award 2022 winner – Sustainability Award 

RIBA MacEwean Award 2022, shortlist

RICS Social Impact Award 2022, longlist