The Crypt at Christ Church Spitalfields

Dow Jones Architects, London, 2015


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Christ Church opened in 1729 

David Grandorge     Download Original

  • Christ Church opened in 1729    
  • York stone paving runs uninterrupted from the street to the crypt    
  • View east through hall to cafe    
  • Prayer room    
  • View east to ramp from crypt entrance lobby    
  • View west through servery, cafe, hall and lounge    
  • View west down ramp to crypt entrance    
  • The walls were made in panels in the joinery workshop and assembled on site    
  • The new walls are made of European oak in staggered boards    
  • The crypt’s vaulted structure becomes an urban space    
  • Floor plan    
  • Organ section    
  • Environmental Strategy Diagram    
  • Drawing of the ramp    
  • Drawing of the main space    
  • Full model    
  • Model    
  • Model    
  • During construction    
  • After demolition    
  • After demolition    
  • During construction    
  • During construction    
  • During construction    
  • During construction    
  • Section A Elevation A    

The brief for the project to restore the crypt at this Nicholas Hawksmoor church in London was to provide separate but flexible spaces for performance, prayer and the parish, as well as a café.

The architect made an urban topography with a ramp of york stone that explicitly connects the ground of the city to the space of the crypt. The material of the pavement extends throughout the crypt and makes a public space inside. The brick vaulting is lime-rendered and lime-washed to unify the space of the vaults and reflect light.

The client’s brief specified densely occupied public spaces with high internal thermal gain during events, which made some form of cooling provision necessary. The provision of external mechanical cooling plant was considered inappropriate for this historic setting and, while the team did consider the use of ground source technologies for heating and cooling, they were rejected because the site is built on an ancient burial site and the vaulted roof of the crypt was too low to accommodate a boring rig. Instead, the design focus turned to the opportunities represented by the fabric of the building itself, exploiting its thermal mass, thermal stability and the large surface area of the below-ground tunnels and crypt as a heat sink.


  • Begun: Aug 2014
  • Completed: Nov 2015
  • Floor area: 750m2
  • Sector: Religious
  • Total cost: £2.3M
  • Procurement: JCT Standard Form 2011 with quantities
  • Address: Spitalfields, London, E1 6LY, United Kingdom

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