When I started planning on going to London this year, my first idea was to go for a month or so to study the adaptive reuse of churches in that city. I thought London would be a good place to see a wide variety of adaptions as the UK has been working with the problem of redundant churches for about a hundred years. As I was pursuing this idea I found a book from 1977 which addresses this problem across Great Britain. (I have not come across any book publications on the adaptive reuse of church buildings in the US.) This book “Chapels and Churches: Who Cares?” includes a discussion of what had been done up until that point in time in the adaptive reuse of church buildings. I compiled a list of 76 different uses that these buildings have been adapted to from the book. In my observations in the Pittsburgh area, I have seen less than ten types of new use for church buildings with housing being the most common.
There was one factor about the church buildings in London that I found fascinating, perhaps in part because it is not a factor in Pittsburgh, or any US city for that matter. Many churches sustained damage during WWII and The Blitz. The churches damaged during the war were demolished, rebuilt, adaptively reused, or memorialized, resulting in some unique (at least to me) situations.
I ended up not going to London to complete a research project on the adaptive reuse of church buildings, but instead went to the city for a few days and explored as much of the city as I could in that time. This included looking for a few of the adaptively reused churches I had learned about in my preliminary research. In the process of looking for the ones I knew about and simply walking around the city, I found some other adaptively reused churches.