We have reached a further significant milestone with ‘Building Tomorrow’, moving into the ‘Avant-projet’ stage. Don’t panic ! No decisions have been taken and will not be until after meetings with the congregation planned for September. Moving to the ‘avant-projet’ stage basically means that the architects have now drawn up detailed and accurate plans and they have consulted with the relevant authorities, most notably the fire service. Any plans we finally put forward will also be subject to the agreement of the Service des Sites et Monuments (SMS) and the Ville de Genève. Changes in the church itself will also require a faculty from the Diocese, but they are likely to be compatible.
Council looked at exciting plans presented by the architects at their last meeting. These followed a request to them to look at ways of maximising the use of space in the Hall and, while retaining the ability to have it as one big room, to create the possibility of having three separate spaces, sound-proofed and with separate, individual access. They were also asked to look at ways of maximising natural light. A major development has been that, if we wish to make any structural alterations, in order to meet current fire regulations and accommodate more than 50 people, we have to create a second access. The current winding stair up to the Church does not meet current standards.
The proposals for increasing natural light include both enlarging the existing window area, but also using a system of mirrors, called a Heliobus, on the opposite side of the Hall. Partitions proposed for separating the Hall into different rooms, although still moveable, are more solid and better sound-proofed.
Although Council still plan a further meeting to clarify where we have consensus, it is fairly clear that Council will want to take this opportunity to upgrade and modernise the Hall, which implies some structural change and consequently creating the second exit, parallel to the existing one, i.e. on the north side of the church. This will involve altering the kitchen, which would become slightly larger overall, but narrower at the north end.
At our request, the architects also researched and presented plans for creating additional space one level down. This would greatly help to ease our space constraints and since natural light would go down to the second level it could potentially provide an office and other dedicated space, or could equally be left as one big room. Account has been taken of the fact that this would be below the water level, which is no longer a technical barrier.
The architects also produced detailed plans for the Church itself, but there is little change from the initial ideas, which are principally around improving such things as lighting, insulation, heating, renovating pews on the one hand, and continuing the dialogue with the SMS on ways of improving the flexibility of the space by removing or changing some of the existing furniture, pews and choir stalls. SMS are being asked if they will finance dendrochronological dating of the choir stalls, which we believe, unlike the nave pews, are not contemporary with the building of the church. The only structural alteration currently being considered for the church itself is the enclosure of the area under the organ loft with a glass partition to provide an area for private meetings, but this may depend on whether we create additional hall space.
Council will discuss in more detail funding sources at its next meeting, but implementation is likely to be phased and at any stage would be contingent on funding being available. It is envisaged that the bulk of funding would be from external sources. The prospect of enabling the renewal and refurbishment of an historic building, combined with creating modern, upgraded amenities below ground attracts support and interest, which we will endeavour to exploit to the maximum.
Watch this space and keep an eye open for the presentation and meeting dates in September. We are most grateful to Mark Charles for master-minding this for us.