|St Barnabas, Iford, Bournemouth|
the 1960s a dreadful blight came over church architecture. The
liturgical world looked different after Vatican Two, and mystery and
tradition were out in favour of transparency and
forward-lookingness. However on a local level 'modernity' often seemed
entail spindly, cheap fittings and ugliness. I don't, as a
rule, like it, as well as having my severe doubts about the theology
that underlay it; or at least the attitude, as theology was thin on the ground.
Barnabas, Iford, was built in 1968 - I don't know who was responsible
as it never came onto Pevsner's radar - and does look it. Few styles
have dated quite as dramatically and radically as the
brick-and-glass shopping-centre modernism of that time, and the
building, which once represented the forefront of church
planning, now appears rather quaint, especially on the approach along
Mount Pleasant Drive. It also feels a bit tired as forty years of sun and rain have had their effect on the materials.
yet there's something about St Barnabas which wins my undying
affection. It makes a stab at drama, producing something not unworthy
of a building in which the sacraments of Christ's Kingdom
are supposed to be celebrated. And it has the unparalleled benefit of
its site. It sits on the edge of a steep bluff overlooking
the Stour valley on the north side of Bournemouth, and on that side the
snaking suburban streets dramatically drop away, giving a
view that goes on for miles. The fact that the upper part of the church
is almost completely glass gives the sense that the building is
and permeated by the world beyond: it is not a structure simply dumped
in its landscape, but the landscape moves around and through it.
you can never forget what lies outside. I know of no other church in
which that new mood of openness and optimism that seemed abroad in
Western Christianity in the '60s is so successfully expressed.
|The world penetrates the church - the church reflects the world back. And the roof swoops up |
and down in dramatic points, angles and edges.
|Some of the fittings may be a bit weak, but |
there's nothing spindly or apologetic about
the concrete font and altar - they're massive,
monumental bits of kit.
|This building may be modernist, but it represents the fruit of Catholic Anglicanism. To the side of the altar
is an aumbry for the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament, and the
altar is itself the clear and obvious dominant focus of the church. And
behind the altar? Again, the world Christ came to save.
It would be perfectly easy, and in keeping, to celebrate the Eucharist
eastward-facing here, though I can't imagine it would ever occur to
them to do so.||Making wonderful use of the site, beneath the worship space is a beautiful hall area used for a playgroup and other activities.|
|Almost in spite of myself, I'm so very |
fond of this church. It seems active and
lively as well as dramatically-built, too,
and more (though not much) can be