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Sunday, 28 November 2010

The New Catholic Church

St Bride's SketchUp - East Elevation (perspective)

I'm making way with my Google SketchUp model of St Brides, East Kilbride. Right now I'm still on the simple stuff - tracing around the plans of the model and matching them to the floor plan (my main point of reference).

When I start modelling like this, it reminds me of why I enjoyed my work last year so much. You get to know a building intimately when working from plan, and constructing it into a 3D model. My toolkit (SketchUp) and process may be rudimentary but it accomplishes everything I want - a basic exploration of form. There's something almost sculptural about modelling in 3D, as one requires a little artistic licence in translating form.

I'm still at the early stages of the model, but hope to have the exterior completed by the end of this week. The interior is going to be more challenging, as the detailing is what gives St Bride's it's sculptural narrative. There's an ironic indulgence in the use of brick to create such opulent form.

I owe Gillespie Kidd & Coia and St Bride's a (partial) apology. As I previously indicated I found it difficult to swallow the concept of modernism applied with such a lack of socialist vision. However when we put St Bride's in the context of its period and location, I begin to understand GK&C's rationale in creating such a brute. First off, St Bride's was in East Kilbride, Scotland's first new town which was in many respects the archetype of new town planning in Scotland. Enter modernism. With a focus on community, open space, the separation of man from machine (the car), modern affordable (especially important to a local authority) building techniques made modernism fit well with the model of the new town. A new church for a new town therefore had to integrate well with what I would describe as The Modernist Vision (generalised, I would describe this as a view to a more socialist future). GK&C were following the lead of their contemporaries by not following the status quo in church design. Modernism did not do nostalgia, and therefore St Bride's had to be of its time.

The non-descript form, simply asserts, like many modernist buildings, "I am man made". St Bride's catered for the Catholic community, rather than the state, and as such, it transposes some concepts applied in modernist architecture (such as quality of light) to this client. At the same time, St Bride's pre-empted The Vatican II which saw mass become a much more inclusive affair, and as such the sense of community in the church was never greater. In a similar fashion in which the application of modernist architecture by the state improved peoples way of living, the application of modernist architecture, improved peoples way of worship. Exploring this notion, particularly exploiting the importance quality of light (or lack there of), allows a narrative to developed from even the buildings on the periphery of The Modernist Vision (as religion is generally a redundant concept in the socialist state).

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