In 2011, the Arts and Humanities Research Council of the UK awarded Dr Robert Proctor, Lecturer in History of Architecture at the Mackintosh School of Architecture, Glasgow School of Art, a major 20-month Research Grant for a project entitled ‘Roman Catholic Church Architecture in Britain, 1955 to 1975′. The grant was awarded to enable the applicant to write a book on this subject, due for draft completion by the end of the award period and publication in 2014; to enable the Glasgow School of Art to employ a research assistant for the project; for a small public exhibition intended to travel to a variety of non-standard venues, principally churches; and for other related outputs such as conference papers as well as non-academic work to broaden the project’s impact.
A typical Roman Catholic parish church built in Britain in the mid-1970s looked radically different from any church buildings which had been built twenty years earlier. The two decades between 1955 and 1975 witnessed substantial changes within the Roman Catholic Church in the fields of theology and liturgy, with decisive effects on church architecture. It was also a period of transition in architecture more generally, from traditional and historical styles to modern design, a shift which profoundly affected the appearances of church buildings, even those by architecture firms which continued to operate throughout the period. This was also a period of massive urban transformations, as housing estates and New Towns were built to accommodate people moved out of city centres and into new communities. To follow these population movements the Roman Catholic Church undertook a vast building campaign of new churches, often seen as hubs of community and expressions of identity.
This project aims to examine all these factors by looking in detail at a selection of the many churches of the period. Of the hundreds built, few were published in any significant way at the time, and even fewer have been published since, so there is a current lack of available knowledge of this body of architecture. Many churches are architecturally innovative and historically interesting, but in danger of being demolished or altered as ideas about church architecture and the liturgy change again. This project will therefore raise awareness of this rich architectural and religious heritage, while analysing and interpreting the buildings according to their historical context.