Castlefield Congregational Chapel was built in 1858 in Manchester, designed by local architect Edward Walters. The building itself has had a colourful and intriguing history. In the 1980s, it was converted into a music studio, and was the place where popstar Rick Astley recorded cult 80s hit ’Never gonna give you up’. In 2006, it began another journey, being converted into an office space, thus beginning the next phase of the life of the building. The chapel has a long standing history in Manchester, and is iconic to the Castlefield area. For this reason, it is only fitting that local architecture firm OMI Architects were commissioned to take on the new interior fit out of the Grade II heritage listed building. Castlefield is a thriving business hub, with many creative and entrepreneurial businesses setting up shop in the area. Located near a picturesque canal, the maritime history of the district is still visible. Converted mills and wharfs are prevalent, with premium restaurants, cafes and nightspots now making their way into the area.
Converting an old building is challenging enough as is, especially when the contrast between the exterior is so great. As you will soon see, the internal layout of this former chapel has a completely new dynamic and ambience. Ethereal and angelic as it was in its former life, modern angles and geometry meet with cathedral windows and ornate columns and cornices. The important remnants of the past remain, with the stark white colour scheme bringing the space well and truly into the 21st century. Take a look…
In this first image, you will see from the start, the contrasts that are apparent between old and new. A bold formation wraps the internal area, in complete contrast with the detailed archway in front of it. Then, a transparent glass balcony separates the two spaces, helping to lead the occupant into the various spaces. The lighting in the space is soft and subtle, complemented by the gentle flow of natural sunlight that enters the room. This image is intriguing in many senses—the push and pull between old and new worlds is so strong, it seems as though the worlds inside are colliding. Peeking through the top, is one of the original glass windows, reminding the viewer that despite the ultra modern finishings, the past is still reaching out to say hello.
In a dramatic twist, we see a walkway zone. The existing church windows are visible, yet play off completely against the angular and geometric internal windows and openings. The new structure rises three stories, growing from the ground floor up. The audacious form appears to twist and turn, showing a dramatic difference between the refurbished elements of the chapel. The beautiful wooden accents stand out against the sea of white, and if for a moment we pause, we can see the existing use of the building come through.
Here, the mix of material finishes is fascinating. A bold orange feature wall, wooden arches, classic column work and a steel staircase, reminiscent of an industrial factory, all come together to create this fiercely juxtaposed scene. The architects have managed to combine this fusion of styles and decorations to great effect, ensuring that the distinction between new and old is obvious. The steel staircase fits in wonderfully with the steel frames in the windows, creating a dialogue between the two elements.
This scene is full of rhythm, contradictions and variances. At first glance, the eye doesn't quite know where to look. When each layer is unravelling, piece by piece, illuminated by the plethora of light that shines inside, the separate structures become quite clear. The existing framework has been left to shine in its original glory, accompanying the steel, render and glass that make up the scene.
They say to never judge a book by its cover, and when it comes to house or commercial conversions, this is definitely the case. OMI Architects have proven that a fierce mix of materials, form and of course, eras is achievable, and that the finished result can be nothing short of outstanding.
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