The Victor Churchill building is a new, highly contextual, two-storey brick building to provide seven retreat bedrooms for visitors to the Royal Foundation of St. Katharine (RFSK), a historic retreat in Butcher Row, E14, close to Limehouse DLR station. The Foundation wished to strengthen and consolidate its specific retreat service, offering new guest rooms at the heart of the site and this site adjacent to the chapel is perfectly positioned for the provision of these new facilities.
The present complex has grown over time and has been carefully constructed to preserve the sense of an oasis in the city. In response to a noticeable increase in a desire for spiritual refreshment and nourishment, the Foundation has organised retreat days to allow people a quiet space and time in their busy lives. The re-ordered 1950s chapel is the centrepiece of retreat and reflection, gracefully knitted into the fabric connecting the Georgian house with a modern retreat and conference centre which was opened in 2005.
The new building relates sensitively to the Chapel itself, but also to the adjoining 1950’s extension on its west side, both in height and materiality. Furthermore, it encloses the chapel entrance to then face a new paved and colonnaded courtyard used as both a gathering point for the chapel, but also an informal protected space for meeting and reflection. The scale, form, detailing and materials are designed to be appropriate in this context and enhance rather than adversely impact on the historic setting. In addition, the new building presents a new face for the Foundation onto St. James’s Gardens, visually and physically enclosing and protecting the site and offering a controlled public gateway directly into the Foundation from the park.
The Royal Foundation of Saint Katharine