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Dundee Church Forges College Links

Thursday February 25

A Dundee church’s innovative partnership with a local college is to become an annual event.

Logie and St John’s (Cross) Parish Church has been in use since 1914, but plans to include a tower on the building were never completed due to lack of funding.

The church’s new minister, the Rev David Gray, who arrived at the church in late 2014 following a previous career as an architect, saw that as an opportunity to engage with students at the nearby Duncan of Jordanstone School of Art and Design.

He approached the college to suggest a challenge to students to submit designs for a finished tower on the church.

The college were enthusiastic about the idea, and what was initially an idea for a one-off project has become the basis of an annual design competition for third year architecture students, with the sponsorship of the Dundee Institute of Architects (DIA).

The inaugural 'Finish the Tower' competition took place over four days from December 14 last year, when students visited the Church to find out more about the building as well as the Christian faith. Eight teams of four students participated, and judging took place on December 17 when David and two members of DIA chose two joint winners.

The winners were chosen based on their design approach, and their creative suggestions to engage with the community and wider city. In particular, one of the winning entries suggested a plastic recycling scheme, from which triangular coloured panels could be formed, the framework of which could form a kinetic and organic, changeable shape, sprouting from the Tower and spreading over and around the building – entering inside the building also. Night time illumination was also proposed.

David says: “The standard of work was excellent, given the time involved, in producing design ideas, displays and models. Importantly, the students recognised the importance and place of the Church, within the local community, and grasped the importance of church/community engagement. This was reflected in all entries.”

Ralph Tilston, the college’s year head tutor, adds: “This project has allowed students to work together, and let their imaginations run wild. It also promotes a collaborative approach to design, which is what the students will encounter in their future architectural careers”.

The competition was followed up with a public exhibition of all the entries in the church in February; and plans are already underway for the next competition, in December this year.

Following the success of the competition, David has also approached the local high school, Harris Academy, to discuss greater collaboration between the college, church and school. He is also exploring the possibility of engaging with nearby primary schools.

David says: “I’m convinced that the Church can respond creatively in it’s own context, wherever that might be, and, that this can act as a powerful and fruitful means of engagement with people. This can only open doors, physically, metaphorically and, importantly, spiritually, too.”

The church (left) was originally one of three ‘city churches’ of Dundee, and was a union of St John’s Church, the Cross Church and Logie Church. The building was designed by the celebrated architect Frank Thomson, well known for many buildings in Dundee, including the Caird Hall and the Civic Square City Chambers.

Pictures of the Rev David Gray with architecture students at the church exhibition: The Courier

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