New London Architecture

New London Awards 2021 Winner - The Floating Church

Winner in the EXPERIENCING CULTURE webinar

The Floating Church, conceived as a modern-day mission, will develop links with growing communities in the London Mayor’s key Opportunity Areas. Mobility and flexibility of programme will ensure lasting benefits to the local diverse communities. In addition to its function as a church, the boat is designed with an adaptable interior to accommodate a range of community activities. Inspired by organ bellows, the kinetic roof transforms the barge from being compact and low-lying, to pass beneath bridges, to an illuminated beacon that floods the interior with light and emits a warm glow at night.

The Floating Church was developed from a unique vision that realised the potential of the London Waterways as a network to engage with emerging communities. Through stakeholder workshops, the design team drew out a clear brief from the Client which sought to create a space welcoming to all, regardless of faith. The resulting space is free from Christian symbolism and equipped with platform lifts and a Part-M accessible WC to ensure inclusivity. The concept for the kinetic roof was inspired by the form of church organ bellows. Hand-crafted from concertinaed, translucent sailcloth, and lined with LED lights, the bellows admit soft diffuse light during the day whilst becoming an illuminated beacon at night. When fully raised, the roof increases head height of the barge to 3.6m, creating a dramatic interior and a distinct silhouette on the canal to attract passers-by. The project was a collaborative effort, pulling together specialists from different fields to deliver a unique, innovative design. The boat is fully equipped to undertake trips to generate additional income whilst the adaptable interior enables the space to be hired for a wide range of activities by members of the public.

The Floating Church will perform the function, over its lifespan, of at least five buildings so is an inherently sustainable solution. When the Diocese of London identified a need to provide worship space and community facilities for emerging communities in London, original plans were in place to develop five permanent structures before realising that the target areas were all linked by the London canal network. This led to the decision to create a mobile place of worship that builds up new congregations and allows the creation of a tailored solution to each individual communities’ needs.

International Jury Quote

The Floating Church takes another typology - the boat - to create another experience that we would attribute usually to a building. I like the temptation powers of the building with its shining lights. There’s a notion of a treasure hunt. I love how the building tries to capture my attention. Even if you have no connection to religion it offers a space where you can go and meditate. 
Andreas Ruby

Supported by


Team Credits

Denizen Works

Naval Architect
Tucker Designs

Turks Shipyard



Interior fit out
ANR Developments

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