Crossway Church

Exceptional community resource on a challenging site

The first Crossway was built as a mission church by the Congregational Church to serve the Elephant and Castle in 1905. This was demolished and replaced with a new building in the 1970’s as an integral part of the all-encompassing Heygate Estate, and was a distinct entity and part of the physical fabric of the estate.

We were commissioned by London Borough of Southwark, as part of a Mott MacDonald team, to provide Crossway with a third home, on behalf of the United Reformed Church. As the Council and Lendlease’s campaign to replace the now much maligned Heygate gathered pace, replacement of the existing church became essential.

Continuing its mission, the new building welcomes a hugely diverse range of people and is designed to maximise the range of spaces and their flexibility, despite a challenging ‘super-urban’ site.

The new church has been designed to provide local people and all its neighbours a host of fresh opportunities, materially boosting the area in a really positive way…I look forward to seeing the church continue to have such a positive impact on my local community


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The challenging site, combined with the desired multi-functional use and flexible spaces, presented us with a complex brief. The long narrow site was achieved by demolishing a redundant day care centre, and was physically hemmed in by the main Thameslink railway viaduct, the 43 storey Strata Tower and a 7 storey residential slab block, with access only possible from the narrow southern end.

The priority for the Minister, Rev’d Pete Stevenson, was continuing the mission of Crossway to benefit the local community, which is made up of an incredibly diverse matrix of people, from all around the world. The brief focussed on creating a welcoming building to serve many congregations and community groups, with a high degree of flexibility, generous circulation and social areas. These are supported by a well-equipped kitchen & WCs/showers that could support the Church’s rough sleeper project.

The new building is designed and arranged to enable smaller congregations to get started and ‘seeds’ the future worshipping communities from all over London


  • Project Details

    • Location: London
      Client: Mott McDonald, LB Southwark, United Reform Church
      Area: 1345 m2
  • Project Awards

    • Shortlisted – President’s Award, National Church’s Trust
    • Shortlisted - RICS London Awards

The briefing and design development process was led by vHH, working closely with the Minister to engage intensively with the neighbours and local community, we had numerous meetings to explain the project, responded to their needs, and address their concerns in meaningful ways.


A major concern expressed by neighbours was potential breakout noise from services, based on their experience of other congregations using amplified music at all hours, and a major aspect of the brief was to overcome the noise from passing trains, 4m away from our site boundary. The desired flexibility meant it was essential that all facilities could be used concurrently without limitation. So acoustic became a major driver for the project at all stages, with massing and fenestration, structural and ventilation strategies, internal layouts, and finishes and details were all developed with the team to minimise acoustic issues, ably assisted by our regular collaborators Ramboll Acoustics. This included auralisation demonstations at consultations to demonstrate the level of acoustic separation provided by the building. Acoustics inside the building are carefully considered to give excellent speech intelligibility and the perfect environment for musical performance, and ensure complete separation between the worship areas so both can be used simultaneously.

The new building is designed and arranged to enable smaller congregations to get started and ‘seeds’ the future worshipping communities from all over LondonREV’D PETER STEVENSON / CROSSWAY CHURCH

Rather like our Performing Arts centre for Latymer Upper School, the other issue was the shape of the site, with the large and small worship spaces needing the full width of the site, so placed at the north end of the building, with the entrance to the south. The circulation between leads to all the other spaces, with two stairs allowing the building to be safely zoned for concurrent activities where safeguarding is paramount, for instance during the rough sleepers project or for children’s activities.


Large windows bring light into all areas and allows carefully framed views of activities inside, and oriel windows provide long views and supervision of the pedestrian route around the building and to viaduct.



One important aspect was to improve the immediate surroundings, with particular consideration given to the long alley way between the site and the viaduct. Despite the small businesses in each arch, this was not well managed and unsafe, with cars and rubbish frequently blocking it. The project repaved and landscaped this space, and provided a refuse store for the neighbouring units that do not have one, providing a much improved pedestrian link. At the south of the site a small landscaped forecourt allows a hearse or wedding car to wait by the entrance, and in time the Cedar of Lebanon will grow to add a welcome touch of green and provide shade.


Although diminutive in comparison with its context, the building is designed to stand up to its surroundings and be clearly distinctive. The building elevations combine textured brick and copper detailing to provide a strong but accessible character, making it stand out as a Christian community centre within its local context. The entrance façade incorporates a large cross within its design, and the crosses formed in the textured brickwork are visible from the Elephant and Castle roundabout and from the railway.

Crossway hosts 10 independent congregations from across the globe. There are three day centres – a community kitchen, a homeless drop-in and a one-stop shop for advice for those whose first language is Spanish (a major local demographic). Community groups using the building have included refugee support groups, Girls’ Brigade, ballet for all ages, ballroom, driving test lessons in Spanish, tenants association, and Southwark housing justice group.

It may not be the biggest project to be built in the area, but it will certainly have a profound positive impact on the lives of so many local people – and by that measure it is one of the most important buildings in the area.

Councillor Mark Williams

Project Timeline

  • 2013

    Existing Site

  • Concept

    Site plan

  • Planning
  • Materials
  • Construction
  • 2017