Towards the end of 2020, an unusual glowing barge took up residence in London’s Hackney Wick. The boat, named Genesis, was actually a floating church – filled with plywood bench pews, a flatpack altar, and an accordion-like roof that can expand and contract like a pair of bellows. The project is the latest in a series of architectural experiments by London studio Denizen Works, which was set up by founder and architect Murray Kerr in 2011.
These range from a 20-metre tall tower-like bird hide in Scotland’s Inverewe Garden to a towable sauna designed to skirt planning permission in Finland. Over the last decade, Denizen Works has earned a name for itself with a series of quirky architectural takes that rethink the limitations of what a building can be. As Kerr puts it: “I don’t think something needs to look like what people think it should look like”.
He started the practice after leaving architecture firm BDP, landing his parents as the studio’s first clients – they’d bought a ruined cottage on Tiree, an island on Scotland’s Inner Hebrides, and wanted to turn it into a home. Kerr had to work around the site’s listed ruins, adding two new wings including a corrugated steel ‘bunker’ section to make it all inhabitable. Having won several awards including Grand Designs Home of the Year, the project set the path ahead for Denizen Works.