The British designer’s minimal works for the community-focused south London church aim to honour its original materiality
British designer Max Lamb has created a series of new works for a modernist church in Peckham, south London. Commissioned by the curator Aldo Rinaldi, Lamb designed a new altar and candle holders, the sanctuary floor, and a Paschal candle. The craft-led, minimal works were commissioned as part of a comprehensive upgrade of the neighbourhood church, St John Chrysostom.
The geometric, brick church building was originally designed in 1966 by architect David Bush, replacing the demolished and war-bombed buildings of St Chrysostom and St Jude. Lamb’s work ‘sought to delicately reconcile the space and the existing elements with my new additions, while still retaining the character of this powerful space,’ he explains.
Lamb was invited, after a competition, to develop a response to the space centred on a new altar and revival of the original sanctuary floor which had been obscured over the decades. His concept was selected by a panel comprising then parish priest Fr Peter Packer, alongside Rinaldi and key members of the congregation, including three people that were part of the original design committee for the building in the 1960s.
Lamb’s choice of materiality for the works aimed to complement that of the building – which includes brick, concrete, painted steel, block flooring, and iroko hardwood seating. ‘The church’s Portland stone font was symbolically important, creating a direct link with the prior building, having been carved from one of the columns of the original war-bombed church,’ says Lamb. ‘I worked closely with Portland Stone Firms Ltd to select a batch with a similar luminosity and texture as that used for St John’s.’
This stone was used for the new altar, its candle holders, and a large Paschal or ‘Easter’ candle, which also features teak to match the church furniture. For the sanctuary base, meanwhile, Lamb stripped the floor back to its concrete core and repaired it using a closely matched concrete and aggregate mix, which was then highly polished.
Commenting on the works, curator and producer Aldo Rinaldi says: ‘Max’s project for St John is a timely reminder of the important role that design can play in shaping spaces that are important in our daily lives.’
Photo: Lewis Ronald, courtesy of St John Chrysostom and Aldo Rinaldi
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