St Philip’s Church

St Philip's Church

St Philip’s Church, Mill Road, Cambridge

How much difference it makes when you change the face of a building! At St Philip’s a new cafe creates a threshold space that welcomes people in from the busy Mill Road. Two sets of sliding folding doors can be closed to create a lounge space for meetings, mums and toddlers etc, but more often these doors are open allowing a flow rough into the church proper. We describe this as a phased engagement of the church with its community, and that sense of openness and flow is key to the success of the building.

There are five new rooms upstairs for available for rent and for church use, together with WCs, kitchens etc. The cafe is operated in partnership with The Papworth Trust, who are a great organisation providing employment and training for people with disabilities. The project was completed in 2012.

The church dates back to the start of the 20th Century and was extended in the 1970s with a lobby space, kitchen and toilets. However, the appearance of the building was drab, and the building closed. The windows had been glazed with yellow obscured glass so even when there was something exciting going on inside it was impossible to tell this from outside.

The church now has a clear point of entry, and lots of glass on the busy road frontage allowing generous views in. The church allows for a phased engagement with its community – the first space is a cafe, where anyone is welcome to come in for a coffee or light meal. A second space can be created by closing two sets of sliding folding doors, and the third space is the church itself. In practice, most of the time these doors are open, allowing a flow of space from the cafe into the church, and views all the way from the road up to the chancel. In this way, the building now speaks clearly of the sort of welcome the church offers. It also allows the church the flexibility to have a more contained and intimate space, or to expand it for larger services.

In addition to the cafe and kitchen, five new rooms have been created at first floor level, three of which are in a new mezzanine level in the rear part of the nave.

The project included providing a new audio-visual installation for use in services and for community events, such as screening the football world cup. The result is a church whose building has helped it to open itself up to its community. The cafe, which is operated by the Papworth Trust, a parter charity, is proving very popular, and ensures that the building is animated throughout the week, not just for a couple of hours on a Sunday.