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Carmelite Monastery, London

  • Architect:
    Niall McLaughlin, Andrew Williamson
  • Award Type:
    Regional Award 1996
  • Location: Overseas
Carmelite Monastery, London


The new sacristy, conceived and celebrated as an area full of restless geometries and indications of transition between the inner sanctum of the existing monastry and the public offertory altar of an unmemorable church by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott.

In contrast, the new chapel is proposed as a restful area for the monks private and contemplative use. Scholarship and craftsmanship are evident in the careful design and execution of these joyful theatrical modern intercentions embracing furniture and fittings, enriched with informed symbolism, to serve and delight this Carmelite order, surviving London's fashionable Kensington Church Street.

Architect's Comment
The Carmelite monastery is a church, a priory and a walled garden. The priory is Victorian. The church was rebuilt after the war. We designed a chapel in the priory and a sacristy in a lightwell separating the buildings.

The chapel is twelve choirs arranged araund an altar. The emphasis is on stillness and stable geometries. We preserved the qualities of the room while inserting special elements.

The sacristy is used for altar preparation and storage of precious objects. We brought in sky light and a tiny peep of south light from the garden. We designed a place of transition, a threshold between the sacred space of the altar and the everyday world of the priory. We use restless asymmetries, spirals and reversals of order to underline transition.