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Sunday January 24 2021

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In Full . . .

Rejoice in landmArk

Posted on January 27 2006 at 8:58:35

A few years ago, when I was helping to guide architectural historians about Worcestershire, we could scarcely find a single building of the last hundred years which we thought worth a visit.

Now at last there is something that the county can be really proud of: the Alvechurch Ark is a triumph.

How easy it would have been to play safe, to try to offend no one and to produce a piece of timid pastiche whose only effect would have been to depreciate the original!

Instead Alvechurch has gone for a design which is challenging and highly inventive, which interacts with the medieval and Victorian architecture of the old church in a fascinating and exhilarating manner.

Just as William Butterfield mightily refreshed the old church in the 1860s with his bluff and highly personal approach to Gothic – which Michael Reardon wittily picks up in his striped brickwork – so does the play of swooping curves in this thrilling new hall give one a new insight into the form of St Laurence’s church itself.

The boldness of the Ark and its refusal to compromise may come initially as a shock, but they are its own best compliment to the integrity of the old church.

If you are shocked, don’t snap at it, just stand in the car park for a few minutes and take in the subtlety with which the new building takes care of its junction with the old and the opportunity it gives for a whole new aesthetic experience.

Congratulations to the people of Alvechurch for persevering against timidity and prejudice: the village has gained a major architectural landmark, which should draw visitors in their thousands.

Professor Andor Gomme FSA,
former Chairman of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain


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