Mosedale Gillatt Architects has rescued, restored and sensitively modified an 18th century church to create a community cultural centre, which has won RIBA North East’s awards for conservation and Building of the Year
RIBA North East Regional Award winner
Building of the Year, sponsored by EH Smith
Conservation Award – Historic Property Restoration
Mosedale Gillatt Architects for the Churches Conservation Trust
Contract value: £2.76 million
Cost per m2: £3,428
The thriving 17Nineteen cultural centre is named after the year in which the building that houses it first opened. Built as Holy Trinity Church, the Grade I listed structure stands in a conservation area in Sunderland’s East End, and was on the Heritage at Risk register. Now rescued, restored and sensitively modified for community use, it retains its architectural integrity while providing modern facilities.
The architect faced a huge challenge. Extensive build-up of moisture in the walls had begun long before its closure as a church in 1988. The level of conservation work required was vast, and the structure is still drying out. The honesty of new interventions and repairs means the history of the former church remains legible to all. The building itself has become an educational tool, telling the stories of how people lived in the 1700s when the church was first constructed. Rare ‘tuck’ pointing is retained, and new handmade bricks are seamlessly set into the exterior walls. The whole project is an outstanding example of the craft, imagination and perseverance required to work with a structure that was in incredibly poor condition.
Moving around the building, some of the modern interventions are subtle and some are more obvious, contrasting positively with the historic interior. But nothing feels out of place. Every space tells part of the building’s story. The walk through the roof space is of particular note, with the original structural timbers – queen-post trusses – visible. The original panelling and wall finishes are uninterrupted by the presence of electrical cables or pipes because these are concealed within the roof void and beneath the newly laid floor.
The design and construction process was community-led, involving hundreds of individuals and organisations. The use of historic building techniques, and tours of the site while the work was being carried out, served to open up information to people in the local and wider community. The building now hosts a large variety of events, and it does so in a beautifully understated and finely crafted way. The investment at 17Nineteen has helped to unlock funding for other local restoration initiatives, and the Craft Skills Programme linked to the project has been recognised nationally as an example of best practice in the sector.
The building’s Grade I listed status set limitations on the types of replacement windows that could be used, and therefore on their thermal performance. The team have, however, pushed the project’s energy performance with underfloor heating, LED lighting and natural ventilation.
New interventions are clearly signalled and executed with a confident originality while also being designed for flexibility and functionality. The jury visited at the end of a long day but they were immediately uplifted by the sense of calm, the understated and rigorous detailing, the passion and commitment of the client and architect team and the sheer beauty of how light, materiality and amenity have been woven together.
See the rest of the RIBA North East winners here. And all the RIBA Regional Awards here.
If you want to understand the whole RIBA Awards process visit architecture.com
RIBA Regional Awards 2023 sponsored by Gaggenau, EH Smith and Autodesk
Structural engineer Blackett-Ord Conservation Engineering and Architecture
Quantity surveyor/cost consultant Hall & Partners
Environmental/M&E engineer TGA Consulting
Principal designer Hall & Partners