Lumen Church – I had an interest in visiting purely for the building design. Turns out, I’m not a fan. Whoever came up with the idea that a cement cone can be a metaphor for light quite clearly hasn’t paid attention…

I don’t understand what the architect was thinking.

This is a small church, divided into two halves by a large cement cone meant to look like light. Half of the church is taken up by a cafe (surely, surely, this is not the point of a church?). 

The inside of the cone is used as an additional prayer space – it is small and feels slightly claustrophobic and has nothing whatsoever to do with the experience if finding yourself in the middle of a light beam… 

Most of the windows in the church seem to make no sense either, they don’t relate to the rest of the design at all – I don’t mind the contemporary stained glass behind the altar. They could have stuck with that. But no – they add the completely different style of the floral structure for the window at the front facade. And even more strangely, they kept what I assume are windows from the building as it was in the past, along the internal walls – old-style stained glass, traditional motifs and techniques (no photo).

They also kept some of the furnishings to go with those windows – the altar is made of old-fashioned carved wood, including even a similarly carved chair behind it, cathedral style… It makes no sense at all in the context of the radically contemporary design of the building, and I can only assume the parish has a feisty PCC with an average age of 80 who refused to get rid of the old altar and windows…

I’ve seen churches that made modern architecture work coherently and beautifully with some of the old artefacts – this is not it. It’s a terrible clash, it looks messy and out of place and detracts from  what could have been good points of the new design. 

The church looks like there were a number of people trying to make a point, and none of them winning the argument. The lack of coherence (and the presence of the cafe) mean there’s no tranquillity, no peace and it certainly does not feel like a place of prayer. Purely in terms of architecture, it’s an idea that doesn’t work. It feels like an early design sketch that, with a little reflection, would never have made it to realisation. 

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