ILKON. Ilkeston Contemporary Arts

Cultural Architecture Built

Professional Category

Studio: ILKON. Ilkeston Contemporary Arts

Architect / Designer: Chris Williamson RIBA RTPI

Design Team:

Chris Williamson Client, Designer, Project Manager

Country: United Kingdom

Copyright: Lee Ballard

The Former Church is a beautiful well crafted building designed by local architect John Higginbottom, completed in 1938. It was derelict and in dire need of repair having stood empty since 2017 and has been brought back into use as a community arts venue. The building has been refurbished to include a teaching room for local school children and other groups, accommodation for an Artist in Residence and a Café with external seating.

The brief for the project was to respect, retain and enhance the best and to sensitively update where necessary. The original innovative natural ventilation system has been refurbished. Openings at low level in the church’s brick fabric are left open at night to cool the building and heat extracted through openable louvres in the ceiling void. The original lighting has been refurbished using LED fittings enhanced with display quality track lighting from Concord Sylvania. The external sculpture garden is lit by igguzinni.

The project was conceived, designed and funded by the owner. The owner produced hand drawn sketches based on the extensive survey drawings and used “WhatsApp” to communicate with builders engaged under a JCT 2016 Minor Works Contract. Their recent experiences particularly in Australia was that architects too readily use visuals to generate design which can be dangerous because the visual is only from one viewpoint and does not show important details or junctions out of the frame. What is important is how the elements fit together, the spaces that are generated, the play of light and colour, the look and feel of the materials and the immersive experience of moving through the building. Additional insulation has been added in the roof void but otherwise the fabric retained intact -although not listed it is worthy of respect.

It was important that the project was seen to be a demonstration of sustainable re-use. We should try wherever possible to bring old redundant buildings back to life for new uses. The brief for this historic building was to do so with the precision of a surgeon rather than the force of a butcher. The Client insisted that the carefully crafted fabric be enhanced whilst still accommodating new technologies and better insulation.

The heating system has been adapted to incorporate new green technologies including a ground source heat pump and solar panels which in addition to the additional insulation reduce the carbon emissions by 75% without detriment to the beautifully crafted building.

Having worked with this marvellous building we think that any award should be shared with John Higginbottom the original Architect. It is interesting to note that all the stained glass (including that of Saint Cecilia which became the inspiration for the branding) and much of the original construction was funded from donations in the 1930s when the economy was even more difficult than present. Particularly important is the innovative natural ventilation system. We are pleased that Higginbottom’s work and the donations of the community are now recognised in a vibrant new community venture.


ILKON. Ilkeston Contemporary Arts LogoILKON. Ilkeston Contemporary Arts

ILKON. Ilkeston Contemporary Arts is a not for profit organisation established to bring contemporary arts to this post industrial part of the East Midlands. It is housed in a beautiful former Methodist Church which has been repaired and brought back to use as a lively community arts centre bringing Art, Music, Theatre, Film and Events to Ilkeston. ILKON is not a made up word- it means “Everyman” and was used by Chaucer in the Second Nun’s Tale about Saint Cecilia who coincidentally is featured in one of the stained glass windows and is now the basis of the ILKON branding.