Chris Williamson Architect: Winner of Architect of the Year Awards 2022. The Former Church is a beautiful well crafted building designed by local architect John Higginbottom, completed in 1938. It has stood empty since 2017 and has been brought back into use as an arts venue to house curated temporary exhibitions by local, national and international artists as well as works on permanent display. The main space is easily converted to a performance space with state of the art audio visual facilities and theatre lighting. The venue has been refurbished to include a teaching room for local school children and other groups, accommodation for an Artist in Residence and a Café with external seating.
Each year a graduate is chosen to receive free accommodation and a salary to kick start their career. In return they are expected to live and work in the venue and to coordinate community groups and schools to demystify the world of the arts
The approach to the project has been to respect, retain and enhance the best and to sensitively update where necessary. The original innovative natural ventilation system has been refurbished. Openings at low level in the church’s brick fabric are left open at night to cool the building and heat extracted through openable louvres in the ceiling void. The original lighting has been refurbished using LED fittings enhanced with display quality track lighting from Concord Sylvania. The external sculpture garden is lit by igguzinni.
The project was conceived, designed and funded by Chris Williamson. No CAD drawings were produced in either the design or construction phases. Chris produced hand drawn sketches based on the extensive survey drawings and used “WhatsApp” to communicate with builders engaged under a JCT 2016 Minor Works Contract. Chris’s recent experiences particularly in Australia was that architects too readily use visuals to generate design which can be dangerous because the visual is only from one viewpoint and does not show important details or junctions out of the frame. What is important is how the elements fit together, the spaces that are generated, the play of light and colour, the look and feel of the materials and the immersive experience of moving through the building. Additional insulation has been added in the roof void but otherwise the fabric retained intact -although not listed it is worthy of respect.
The Gas boiler was replaced by a ground source heat pump which in addition to the 30sq.m array of solar panels supplies all the buildings energy. The Contractors, subcontractors and consultants have been superb, relishing the task of breathing new life into a disused building. The removal of the landing floors in the bell tower and the suspension of a 1500mm diameter mirror ball at the top of the tower is just one example of the team going above and beyond a normal building project. Perhaps for that alone the project should be considered worthy of an Award.
Chris Williamson Architect
Ilkeston Contemporary Arts
Architect of the Year Awards Category
Public Building Interior Built