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The Church Army Chapel

London, United Kingdom
1 of 4

The Church Army Chapel at Vanbrugh Park, Blackheath, Greater London, designed by Ernest Trevor Spashett, opened in 1965 by Princess Alexandra and consecrated by Michael Ramsay, is a locally listed building of outstanding architectural significance, and is notable for originally having had the tallest sectional aluminium spire of its time, and for being one of the earliest 20th century chapels of modern design to have been conceived with a central altar. It is now part of Blackheath High School.


The concept for the building is embodied in the spire, which was a very tall, slim, hollow aluminium cone at least twice the height of the building again, chosen for its lightness and strength as proved in the aeroplane construction industry. It was made up of a series of overlapping hollow sections decreasing in size up to the final cone-section at the top, like a Victorian hand-held brass telescope, but with the overlaps of the expanding sections reversed. A slightly similar type of aluminium spire had been added to the top of the Chrysler Building in 1929, allegedly as a surprise in that it created, temporarily, New York's tallest building.

The roof is a saddle roof, meaning that it is in the shape of a hyperbolic paraboloid, and thus the curved shape can be constructed with straight beams; a previous example was a 1956 Kansas house. The columns between the windows do not appear to meet the roof when viewed from below: this gives a floating-roof effect. Although the tops of the white brick walls on the east and west elevations are fixed to the roof to stabilise it, the floating-roof effect is continued with a top row of dark blue engineering bricks with dark pointing.

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bostjan, February 22nd, 2016
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