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St Johns Methodist Church

Originally built in the late 1800’s, St. John’s Methodist Church has long been renowned as one of the most picturesque stone buildings within the Central area. Situated in Havelock Street, the church is surrounded by a number of noteworthy buildings that exemplify the depth of quality and rich historic fabric that Port Elizabeth’s inner city has to offer. While exhibiting many of these great qualities, subsequently extensions to the church have resulted in much of its original character and heritage being lost. With the intention of resolving the poorly defined relationship between the original building and its later additions, the church requested a conceptual proposal for its holistic redevelopment. Founded on a deep sense of respect for the old, the design approach of this renovation and restoration project began by pulling-apart and reconfiguring the stylised nature of the heavy brickwork addition. Drawing inspiration from the natural light and stained glass inherent within the church, large panels of glazing are introduced, defining a new axis and entrance into the space. Visually opening itself to the public, the glass also serves symbolically to convey a feeling of transparency and openness within the church – a core value of the congregation’s purpose. The design also focussed on the disjointed connection between the original church and its later extensions: Characterised by a single storey framed-glass corridor, the existing junction fails to address the imposing mass and scale of the two buildings. In drawing a sharp distinction between the old and new structures, the proposal incorporates a contemporary metal cladding structure – a more contemporary approach to stained glass – which envelops the movement corridor. The effective height of this ephemeral link is also increased, highlighting the importance of the connection whilst aesthetically improving the scale and proportion of the link in a harmonious manner. The connection also provides an opportunity for an enclosed courtyard space at the rear, accentuating the importance of space between the two building structures. Ultimately the objective of the new proposal is to bring a positive and contemporary change to the church, injecting a new energy into the building. While it can be argued that the original extension may have damaged the integrity of this historic church site, the rich layering provided by subsequent extensions and future renovations will continue to add to the quality and richness of this continually developing civic structure.

Project Facts

Client:St Johns Methodist Church
Location:Port Elizabeth
Date of Project:2011
Design Team:Albrecht Herholdt, Rose Buchanan, Gianni Geminiani