Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Modern churches and architectural cockroaches

I had an unusual luxury last Sunday afternoon as my children were elsewhere (eldest boy at rugby and then at indoor cricket nets, youngest playing with Lego at his friend's house) I wandered the streets and canals and riversides of Glasgow with the dog for what seemed like hours. I needed it - I was washed out after last week.

As I did so I passed a number of current and former churches and a horrific thought struck me. A number of the rather fine Protestant churches of Glasgow have been converted into what look to be very nice flats and entertainment venues. I noticed with some sadness that the rather beautiful Lansdowne Church at Kelvinbridge is "looking for another use". This is inevitable. It is a wonder how the city supported so many congregations. They are listed and cannot be demolished. They can be sold and so must find other uses.

What struck me is that when Catholic parishes come to be merged and closed, as they surely will (cf St Francis' Church in the Gorbals) then like cockroaches after a nuclear explosion, the modernist concrete monstrosities will survive. After all, they can't be converted into anything else (well would you buy a flat in one?) and as I have found recently from my friend who is a doctor in a hospice which has moved from its 70s building into a new build, demolition is an expensive business (about £1M for his former workplace)

So, since they can't be demolished, the nice buildings can be sold off and it would cost money to ditch the concrete bunkers.



Blogger Rusticus said...

A depressing thought, particularly as we have too many cockroaches and too few decent buildings.

If I find myself in an unfamiliar town my rule of thumb for finding a Catholic church is to look for a building which resembles a multi-storey car park/public lavatory/public library/chicken processing plant - and that will be it.

11:17 PM  
Anonymous berenike said...

We just have to get on with converting the country. As I explained to Archbishop Conti over dinner the other day, we could do it within twenty-five, thirty years.

5:43 AM  
Blogger Simon Platt said...

Your eldest can manage rugby and nets on the same day? They don't push them hard enough in Glasgow, obviously.

Or else, perhaps, mine is slacking. I'll tell him.

4:51 PM  
Blogger Simon Platt said...

On the secondary topic, I think it's also significant that the better buildings are typically in the older, depopulated parts of town, and the poorer buildings are in newer, more populous suburbs.

But the point you make: "they can't be converted into anything else" also seems to have some merit - and it hadn't occurred to me before.

4:59 PM  
Blogger Paulinus said...

Agreed Simon. The problem is that the depopulated bits of town are filling up with new flast full of young adults needing evangilisation. Closing the churchse will lokk pretty short-sighted.

As to rugby and nets, Glasgow kids are like Irn Bru - made in Scotland fae girders.

6:57 PM  
Blogger Paulinus said...

Oops! That's flats, look and churches....

6:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Goodness, the new monstrosities can be sold off and converted into supermarkets! Middlesbrough cathedral isn't affectionately known as "St. Tesco's" for nothing!

7:29 PM  

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