This floating church in east London hides an unexpectedly spacious & modern interior

A canal boat in east London has received an unexpected transformation – as a floating church...

floating church
(Image credit: Gilbert McCarragher)

A canal boat in east London has received an unexpected transformation – as a floating church.

It's crowned by a lit-up pop-up roof that functions like a church organ's bellows, adding dramatic height to the church's modern interior.

floating church

(Image credit: Gilbert McCarragher)

The work of locally-based architecture studio Denizen Works, this innovative project merges together modern architecture and design, on a floating houseboat structure.

Named 'Genesis Floating Church', it was created as an innovative religious and community space for the Diocese of London.

floating church

(Image credit: Gilbert McCarragher)

The floating church is characterised by its expandable roof, which takes cues from church organ bellows and Volkswagen camper vans, and was designed to draw attention to the venue.

The architects had came across some beautiful woodprints of organ bellows during their research of church design. The roof of the barge is now the design’s centrepiece, creating a subtle poetic link to traditional churches.

floating church

(Image credit: Gilbert McCarragher)

Created in translucent sailcloth, lined with LED lights and powered by hydraulic rams, it can expand and contract and adapt to the space’s needs. It can be easily operated by the touch of a button. 

The expandable roof increases the internal head height to 11.8 ft (3.6m) at its highest point, adding drama to the church interior.

floating church

(Image credit: Gilbert McCarragher)

You enter the church midship, with the entrance flanked by the main assembly space at the front of the barge and the kitchen, office and toilet at the rear.

The main assembly room can hold about 40-60 people, and features light plywood walls, green linoleum floor and a round skylight.

floating church

(Image credit: Gilbert McCarragher)

floating church

(Image credit: Gilbert McCarragher)

The alter features an angled-front face like the prow of a boat and is designed to fold down into a flat pack for easy storage.

It's intended as a cosy gallery with clean, minimal detailing, though this is transformed into a dramatic 3.6-metre-high hall-like space when the roof is raised.

floating church

(Image credit: Gilbert McCarragher)

The assembly space has built-in benches (with hidden storage) along the perimeter of the room, and is fitted with marine-style bulkhead lights to create a cosy atmosphere. 

The furniture, crafted by local design company Plyco, includes custom-designed plywood stools and foldable tables for use at public events and services.

floating church

(Image credit: Gilbert McCarragher)

The boat's exterior is painted in traditional maritime hues, adorned with a zigzag pattern on the roof fascia that mirrors the sail-stitching that was used to create the bellows.

floating church

(Image credit: Gilbert McCarragher)

This zigzag motif continues internally, where it is used on aluminium privacy screens on the windows, tiling in the kitchen and on the legs of the furniture.

floating church

(Image credit: Gilbert McCarragher)

floating church

(Image credit: Gilbert McCarragher)

The floating church aims to become a beacon for local communities and a space to, not just pray, but also meet, gather and plan a range of activities in.

With a total floor area of 484.4 ft2 (45 m2) and is designed to accommodate a wide range of community activities, from parent and toddler groups to pilates, art classes and live music. 

floating church

(Image credit: Gilbert McCarragher)

Speaking about the unexpected design, Denizen Works director Andrew Ingham says: ‘We wanted to develop a design which would transform in shape to be delightful and surprising to answer the client brief to create a ‘conspicuous presence’ on the towpaths of London.’

The project was spearheaded by the Diocese of London for the St Columba East London community, and has been created in close collaboration with Turks Shipyard and naval architect Tony Tucker.

The floating church is moored on the River Lee Navigation alongside Here East at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

The floating church will remain at this mooring for three to five years before moving to other communities and parishes.