lumen Centre London Multi Faith Church, Bloomsbury Architecture Design, Photo, England

lumen Centre, London

New Religious Building Bloomsbury design by Theis and Khan Architects, UK

9 Dec 2008

lumen Centre Bloomsbury

Design: Theis and Khan Architects

An exquisitely designed new multi-faith centre for worship and contemplation by Theis and Khan Architects will open in the New Year.

Address: 88 Tavistock Pl, London WC1H 9RS

Phone: 07772 762782

Lumen Centre Lumen Centre London Lumen Centre multi-faith centre
Lumen URC and Community Centre photos : Nick Kane

lumen Centre in London

Created within the shell of an existing 1960s United Reformed church, lumen will be used regularly for Christian services as well as offering an open invitation to people of all faiths to use the spaces. The site has a rich history. The 1960s church replaced an older church, which was bombed during the Second World War, and backs on to an ancient burial ground for the people of Bloomsbury, now called St. George’s Gardens.

There are three main elements to the redesign: a café clearly visible from the street through a dramatic 8m high window, a new sacred space for contemplation within the main body of the church and a new extension housing three community spaces.

The new sacred space, known as the Shaft of Light is central to the design. A large-scale intervention, rendered in white, is a spectacular conical, shell-like space, which reaches through the full 11-metre height of the building to a single roof-light. The Shaft of Light offers people from any faith or belief a secluded area for worship or for private gatherings. The quality of the light inside the space subtly changes, depending on the weather and time of year, adding to the sense of peace and separation from the bustle of the outside world.

In addition, a tranquil garden at the rear of the building (on the site of the old car park) offers a contemporary interpretation of a cloister, with slender brushed stainless steel columns supporting an arcade around a central courtyard planted with herbs and silver birch trees. The cloister will be open for people to enjoy a quiet moment of reflection or simply stop for a lunchtime sandwich.

Commissioned by the United Reformed Church, lumen has continued the ancient tradition of commissioning artists and craftspeople. Working with Modus Operandi art consultants, the church has commissioned two artists to create new three dimensional art works, which are carefully integrated within the building.

Internationally acclaimed artist Alison Wilding has created a trio of artworks: a new font, a drinking fountain and a garden fountain. The sculptures, which explore themes of living water and light, create new points of stillness and reflection within the internal and external spaces. The drinking fountain, an upright stainless steel rhombus that echoes the form of standing stones, contrasts with the circularity of the two other objects.

The font is a silver-plated shallow dish atop a hand-cast concrete body, whereas the garden fountain is a shallow bronze dish with the inscription “A spring of water, welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). The strong architectural form of the Shaft of Light, designed by Theis and Khan Architects is the key point of reference for both the drinking fountain and font.

Lumen Centre London multi-faith centre London multi-faith centre Lumen Centre interior
Lumen URC and Community Centre photos : Nick Kane

The north window on the street front, features a spiralling, geometric sculptural screen, entitled North Elevation, by rising artist Rona Smith. Made of bronze, the sculpture is suspended within the alcove of the window, and arcs gently into the main space. The design evokes the traditional imagery of many religions, including Christian, Islamic, Hindu and Buddhist. The artwork explores how geometry unites diverse systems of symbolism and representation and reflects lumen’s ethos of inclusive worship for people of all faiths.

The artworks have been curated and managed by Modus Operandi Art Consultants, who also guided Lumen through the commissioning process.

Vivien Lovell, Director of Modus Operandi, comments: “In the month when Sir Anthony Caro completes the largest Christian commission of the last 70 years, for a church in northern France, it is heartening to see smaller religious establishments continuing the tradition of commissioning devotional works from craftspeople and artists.

It has been a delight to work with lumen, and in particular the Minister, Maggie Hindley. Theis and Khan have been brilliantly supportive throughout the whole process, to both the artists and ourselves.

The art works which have been commissioned aim to signify universal values, yet each are open to the interpretation of the individual viewer. We hope that they will encourage a sense of contemplation, and a further means of engagement with the centre, bringing together people of diverse beliefs and backgrounds.

Maggie Hindley, Minister, lumen comments: “We always worked with three aims: To put worship at the centre of everything; to create a ‘shop front’ and to partner with people of faith and with groups working for a better city. What impressed me about our architects and artists was that they listened, and asked questions, and brainstormed with us and really got to understand our vision before coming up with any proposals; and then they listened some more as the plans evolved. So we got a physical expression of our own goals, but more beautifully and imaginatively than we could have dreamed of.”

In the New Year lumen will be hosting a night shelter for homeless people once a week.

Lumen URC and Community Centre will open to the public in 2009

Theis and Khan Architects
Theis and Khan Architects established in 1995 by husband and wife team Patrick Theis and Soraya Khan. The award-winning practice carries out a diverse range of work in the community, arts, education, healthcare, religious, commercial and residential sectors.

Modus Operandi
Modus Operandi is a leading independent agency for art in the public realm.. It aims to deliver excellent art integral to architecture and the public realm, matching the vision of artists to client, audience and place. It produces permanent and temporary commissions, collaborations and interventions, based on creative strategies and appropriate selection procedures.

Rona Smith
Rona Smith is an emerging sculptor and installation artist based at Cell Studios in London. She studied at the Brera Accademia, Milan and Leeds University. In 2007 she was shortlisted for the Arts Council’s award for art in a religious context. Rona has been selected for a number of Group Exhibitions, including the current show Presque Rien 2 at Laure Genillard Gallery, London curated by Gavin Turk. North Elevation for the Lumen Centre is Rona’s first permaent public commission.

Alison Wilding
Turner Prize shortlisted artist Alison Wilding studied at Ravensbourne College of Art and Design, Kent and at the Royal College of Art, London. Alison has exhibited extensively throughout the world in solo and group shows, including the Serpentine Gallery, London, Museum of Modern Art, New York, Tate Liverpool and the Henry Moore Foundation. Wilding has consistently produced ambitious and innovative sculptures, working on a variety of scales, and with a wide range of modern and traditional materials.

Lumen URC and Community Centre images / information from Caro

Location: lumen Centre, Bloomsbury, central North London, England, UK

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