How COVID-19 has changed the design of Downing Place URC

Inside Downing Place URC while under construction

The new Downing Place United Reformed Church was due to reach a key milestone in construction this month with a traditional topping out ceremony. Work on site for the £3.3million transformation
project, led by Archangel Architects, is currently on hold.

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement of 23 March, church buildings have been closed for public worship, private prayer and all other meetings and activities except for vital community services until further notice. Churches have been encouraged to find creative ways of staying in touch and offering spiritual support. Downing Place URC has been live streaming acts of worship on YouTube, including daily services during Holy Week.

Broadcasting on YouTube has led Downing Place URC to reconsider some of the requirements of their redeveloped site. Downing Place URC was formed in June 2018 from the union of Emmanuel and St Columba’s United Reformed Churches. With the sale of the Emmanuel building, the redeveloped St Columba’s site will become the springboard for a renewed mission in the heart of Cambridge to create an open and inclusive church, and community centre, welcoming to all.

Archangel Architects worked with audio visual specialist Thomas Krippner, of Absolute AV, based in Royston, on the initial design for AV equipment in the worship space and across the rest of the site. The AV specification was considered with potential future requirements in mind; including additional power points and data cables, it has therefore been simple for the AV design to respond to the client’s developing needs with the addition of a camera and recording equipment into the main worship space, connected to the PA system. A fixed camera with five preset zoom positions will provide variety for the viewer. With a minimal effort this technology offers churches the potential to be more inclusive and reach new audiences beyond current circumstances.

“We have had a great reaction to the services provided online and we are excited about how the tech we’re putting into Downing Place URC will enable people to be at church, who otherwise couldn’t be in the future.” John Bradbury, Minister, Downing Place URC.

“During these extraordinary times churches are finding new ways to reach their congregations and reconsider the purpose that their buildings serve. We look forward to working with more churches to help them find ways to make their buildings more welcoming; facilities for filming and recording may well form part of this opening up of church to different generations in new ways.” Nigel Walter, Founder and Director, Archangel Architects.

Image: Inside Downing Place URC while under construction



Architects based in Cambridge. We believe the best buildings are created from a close partnership between client and architect.

Archangel Architects Ltd