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058 PROJECT / WORTH ABBEY MONASTIC CHURCH, EAST SUSSEX, ENGLAND


Above The main ribbed timber roof is uplit with concealed cold cathode from ACDC around the outside perimeter of the central drum. Lighting to the internal surfaces of the central drum are achieved with Color Kinetics eW Blast luminaires. Right The congregation seating is illuminated with custom made 4-lamp pendant luminaires (Mike Stoane Lighting), each lamp is independently adjustable and lockable. The seating area is well covered to at least 220 lux average and can be dimmed down from there to suit.


Worth Abbey is a Benedictine order Monas- tery in East Sussex in Southern England. The Abbey church was designed in the 1960’s by the well known ecclesiastical architect of the time, Francis Pollen. As part of the normal monastic activities including retreat facilities, the Abbey also has a large church building, which is open to the local com- munity for worship. The church was unique due to the fact that the interior volume was the largest open space for religious worship in England at that time. This was made possible by the architect’s creative use of shipbuilding techniques to design the shell and structure of the building. The Abbey Church is the most important building at Worth, both in terms of size and significance. The monks gather here six times a day to create a rhythm of prayer that is the foundation of the monastic life. This sanctuary acts as a magnet for individ- uals who wish to pray alone, as well as for special services and meetings for Christians of different denominations.


The church building is characterised by a very large circular open plan space without central supporting columns. The perimeter walls have clerestory windows at high level with a large central lantern letting in signif- icant amounts of daylight when available. The roof structure is a series of inclined


concrete ‘spoke’ beams with timber panel- ling in between. Within this open plan space are positioned two private chapels with enclosing walls which do not reach the roof. Consequently views of the impressive roof structure are mainly not interrupted.


The original architect-designed lighting scheme comprised simple cylindrical pen- dants and wall lights in a ‘rustic’ finish us- ing tungsten PAR 38 lamps, a common light source in the ‘60s. The design of the light fixtures was in keeping with the simplicity of the architectural design and of monastic living. Unfortunately these extremely inef- ficient light sources were still being used at the beginning of the project in 2010. This created significant maintenance issues for the Abbey. The main body of the church was significantly under-lit, so that reading tasks were very difficult and there was no accent or feature lighting to the architecture or religious focal points. Generous support from the Abbey’s bene- factors enabled the monks to engage the internationally-acclaimed designer Thomas Heatherwick, currently noted for his re- design of the London Routemaster bus, to re-create the interior space of the church. This included a unique set of monastic choir stalls built from American black walnut


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