The Modern Mission of a Floating Church

Ciro Marco Musella
·3 minuto per la lettura
Photo credit: Gilbert McCarragher
Photo credit: Gilbert McCarragher

From ELLE Decor

Not everyone knows that in the beginning, it was Le Corbusier who first inaugurated the fad of floating architectures when he intervened on a collier in 1929, creating the Asile Flottant, a temporary shelter during the Second World War. Setting sail years later — and in a dramatically different context — was Point Counterpoint II, a concert hall designed by Louis Kahn in 1976 (among the most celebrated examples of kinetic architecture), and the Theater of the World, an unforgettable project from Aldo Rossi for the Venice Biennale of 1980. Recently added to that list is the Genesis Floating Church, a religious center designed by the architects at Denizen Works for the community of St. Columba East London in collaboration with the Turks shipyard and naval architect Tony Tucker.

Photo credit: Foto di Gilbert McCarragher.
Photo credit: Foto di Gilbert McCarragher.

Docked on the banks of the Lee Navigation River, the boat is located near the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, which was created for the 2012 Olympic Games. Prior to this, the space was home to the Kingsway International Christian Center, which, with over 12,000 followers, represented one of the largest Christian congregations. That is until the Games, when the space was ceded, moving the faithful to more distant makeshift spaces, according to The Guardian. The boat then was born as a response to this loss of cohesion and “conceived as a modern-day mission”, it serves to connect the community that lives along the river in East London.

Photo credit: Foto di Gilbert McCarragher
Photo credit: Foto di Gilbert McCarragher

Among other boats, the Genesis is distinguished for its pastel color and a kinetic rooftop inspired by the bellows of organs: almost like an accordion, the opening remains the star of the ship, which in order to navigate, must enter below the bridges of the river. To respond to this need, the designers realized a roof that raises 3.6 meters at the bow. Once raised, the translucent sails of the accordion clad in LED lights transform the bow into a full fledged lighthouse on the waterway, assuming a strong symbolism that takes root in the boat’s very function.

Photo credit: Foto di Gilbert McCarragher
Photo credit: Foto di Gilbert McCarragher

The same detail on the bellows of the sail are echoed as a main motif in the hall below, proposed in a series of details including the jalousies of windows. Inside, while the stern hosts bathrooms, offices and a kitchen, the bow welcomes the core of the boat. The main hall, recalling a church with a single nave and chapels placed laterally, presents no religious symbols on either the walls in light plywood or the floors in green linoleum. The only elements highlighted then are the custom-made furnishings realized for the occasion by Plyco.

Photo credit: Foto di Gilbert McCarragher.
Photo credit: Foto di Gilbert McCarragher.

The room lends itself as a space for community regardless of religious beliefs, becoming a place to carry out diverse activities that can be rented to private parties, guaranteeing a resource for its maintenance. Genesis, whose name references the first book of the Bible as an allusion to creation, will initially serve the two parishes of St. Paul Old Ford and St. Mary of Eton, remaining docked for three to five years in the episcopal area of Stepney where it is at the moment, before traveling to reach new communities.

Photo credit: Foto di Gilbert McCarragher
Photo credit: Foto di Gilbert McCarragher

www.denizenworks.com