Belfast design studio Paperjam has created a new visual identity for St Paul’s Bow Common church in East London, inspired by the building’s striking brutalist design.
The church was built in the late 1950s by architects Keith Murray and Robert Maguire, who worked closely with vicar Gresham Kirkby (an anarchist socialist) to design it. It was constructed to replace a Victorian Gothic church on the site, which was destroyed by bombing during World War Two, and is made up of 3 diminishing cubes. An alter at its centre is bathed in light by a glass column which extends from the ceiling, and the building features one of Britain’s largest contemporary mosaics by artist Charles Lutyens.
Paperjam was recently commissioned to create a new identity for the church, and has devised a system which reflects the building’s minimalist aesthetic while paying homage to some of its more unusual features. “The origin of the building had to be reflected in the new brand, so we looked to the era of its conception the 1950s – 60s for inspiration,” says the studio. The identity was launched last month, and will be rolled out over the next few months.
The studio presented the church with two options: the first featured a utilitarian word marque and a grey, black and orange colour palette:
The second option, which was chosen by the church, features a logo depicting the building and its use of light and shadow (the centre of the church is bathed in light, while outer ‘zones’ are much darker, as you can see in the film from National Churches Trust below).
The identity uses Frutiger’s Univers typeface, chosen for its “rationalistic style”, says Paperjam. “In addition to the logo, the overall look was to be created with geometric shapes which are drawn from the building itself,” explains the studio. “The architecture forms the logo and the icon references the play of light on the abstract geometrical forms of the architecture. While the left part of the logo is an abstract illustration of the building, the right fulfills the symmetry with the help of letters.”
The muted grey and black colour palette is accompanied by black-and-white photographs of the building and its interior, from the angular fountain which reflects its glass column to its pointed roof.
While brutalism is a divisive aesthetic, it’s great to see such an unusual and influential building celebrated in the identity. Paperjam’s design gives the church a bold new look, avoiding any cliched or more traditional religious imagery, and is bound to catch the attention of passers-by – though it seems a shame that none of the designs from Paperjam’s first option will be put to use.
St Paul’s Bow Common is one of several UK churches to undergo a rebrand in an attempt to refresh its image and attract new visitors: we covered Spy Studio’s colourful identity for Oxford’s oldest church back in June, and Paperjam created new logos for the Bishop of England and the Diocese of England in 2012.
The new identity may prove controversial with those who dislike brutalist design – with its sombre palette, it perhaps lacks the warmth of Oxford University Church (or these colourful posters for Herne Hill Baptist Church), and is a departure from the more friendly approach used by most religious organisations – but it certainly captures the spirit of the building, and will no doubt inspire some who have previously walked past it to stop and take a look around.