St. Paul's Old Ford

Victorian church rehabilitated to include a building within a building, a stunning Ark of tulipwood situated in the nave.

About this project

Matthew Lloyd Architects was appointed by the PCC of St Paul with St Mark Old Ford to be architects for its ‘New Heart for Bow’ community project, revitilising a derelict Victorian church, enabling it to contribute to and thrive within the diverse community it serves. The finished design is a model of multi-tasking, delivering a mixed-use building which includes an art gallery and project room, gym, physical therapy and counselling rooms, a small community hall, a crèche, a café, an office, and even a sauna.  

The central feature is the art gallery, in the shape of a boat, or ark, built of tulipwood supported on curving steel columns.

The semi-derelict and under-used church in East London had been saved from demolition in the 1990s, but lacked the support needed to maintain a building of its scale. The aim was to create a healthy living centre which would seek to combine religious, spiritual, physical and cultural values. The final brief comprised the church worship space, a crèche, a community hall, an art gallery (now an education mentoring charity), a café, meeting rooms, therapy rooms and a gym with a particular emphasis on supporting people with impaired mobility.

Use of Timber

The brief was challenging given that the church had no associated land, so all of the functions had to be contained within the volume of the original church building. The architectural solution was to build a four storey steel framed building within the west end of the church from which a structure accommodating a variety of uses is projected high over the nave. This structure, which has become known as ‘the ark’, is clad in tulipwood and stands on cranked steel columns straddling the nave. The ark stands as an object within the original church space allowing the chancel to be retained at its original scale with unobstructed windows remaining at the eastern end of the church. High above the worship space is where the gym sits, within the roof space formerly above ceiling level and out of view.


RICS Community Benefit Award: 2005

Further information

Open House London

Images: Matthew Lloyd Architects

Key contacts


St. Paul’s Old Ford PCC


Matthew Lloyd Architects

Main contractor

Balfour Beatty

Back to Case Studies

Submit a case study

Share your timber projects with us and we will feature them on this site and via our newsletter.

Submit case study

Get the Wood for Good Newsletter