The Floating Church
ARCHITECTURE: Public Building
Denizen Works Ltd
Diocese of London
The Floating Church, Genesis, is a new, wide-beam canal boat crowned with an innovative pop-up roof designed by London-based architects Denizen Works. The barge commissioned by the Diocese of London as a mobile assembly space was developed in collaboration with Turks Shipyard and naval architect Tony Tucker. Genesis is conceived as a modern-day mission, developing links with growing communities living around the canal in East London over the next 25 years. Its mobility and flexibility of programme will ensure lasting benefits to the diverse neighbourhoods at key regeneration sites, which include Sweetwater, Eastwick and Hackney Wick. As well as serving as a space for a church, the barge is designed with a bespoke and adaptable interior to accommodate a wide range of community activities and services.
Denizen Works’ innovative design features a kinetic roof inspired by organ bellows. It has been crafted from concertinaed, translucent sailcloth, and is lined with LED lights and powered by hydraulic rams. When fully raised, the roof will transform the barge from compact and low-lying, allowing it to pass beneath bridges, expanding into an illuminated beacon designed to capture attention and attract footfall to the mission. Operated by the touch of a button, in its raised position it increases the head height of the barge to 3.6m at its highest point, creating a dramatic interior which is accessible to all. The floating hub is boarded midship; on one side of the entrance is the main assembly space, with services (kitchen, office and toilet) towards the rear of the barge. Inside, Denizen Works has created an elegant and seamless interior of light plywood walls and green linoleum floor. The expansive assembly space under the kinetic roof is designed to take a capacity of 40people seated and up to 60 passengers when stationary. It has built-in Valchromat benches providing seating and storage along the perimeter of the room and is fitted with marine-style bulkhead lights to create a cosy atmosphere. The furniture, designed by local design company Plyco, includes custom-designed plywood stools and foldable tables for use at public events and services. An altar designed by Denizen Works featuring an angled-front face like the prow of a boat has also been fabricated and is designed to fold down into a flat pack for easy storage.