St Martin's Church, Brighton: ideas competition

A competitive challenge seeking practical, exciting and commercially viable ideas for the innovative reuse of St Martin’s church in Brighton.  

Creative solutions are sought that will respect the integrity of this beautiful listed structure, while adding new life and economic sustainability.

A first prize of £10,000 and two runners up of £6,000 will be awarded for the best solutions.

Information on this web page

Updates and clarifications

About the project

  • The challenge
  • Constraints and opportunities of the brief
  • Background information

About the competition

  • Registration
  • Competition format
  • Who can enter
  • Timetable
  • Stage 1 submission requirements
  • Prizes
  • Questions
  • Site visit
  • The Jury Panel
  • The Technical Panel
  • The judging criteria
  • Publicity
  • Copyright
  • Disqualification
  • Disclaimer

Please note: a pdf copy of all the information on this page can be found in the downloads section in the sidebar: 'St Martin's church competition brief'.

Updates and clarifications

We are delighted to announce that the three teams shortlisted to take part in Stage 2 of the competition are led by:

  • Arup
  • Emil Eve Architects Ltd
  • Trewin Design Architects

In addition, two teams were highly commended, led by:

  • ARTArchitects
  • Tom Turner Architects

For further information about the selection process please refer to the Stage 1 Jury Report in the side bar of this webpage.  A Press Release announcing the winners can also be found in the side bar.

The results of Stage 1 of this competition will now be made on Thursday 18 October 2018

For those of you who were unable to visit the site last week, we are thankful to Maltby Land Surveys Ltd for making a number of photos of the church and the church hall available via this link.


Graham Turner, Former Chair of Rydon Group and Croydon Tramtrack Ltd. has been added to the Jury Panel.


A pdf with updates and clarifications has been added to the sidebar of this website. This includes information about the site visit and the .dwg floor plan.

Scott Ralph, Diocesan Property Director, Diocese of Chichester has been added to the Jury Panel.

A pdf with updates and clarifications has been added to the sidebar of this website. This includes approximate dimensions of the church and the church hall.

The challenge

As witnessed by the grandeur and beauty of St Martin’s Church in Brighton, church buildings were once the focus of communities across the land.  Today, the increasingly cosmopolitan and secular society in which we live mean that these buildings are used as a place of worship by only a few: many are empty for much of the time and, as they are generating only modest incomes, many are in danger of falling into disrepair.  

And yet, church buildings sit at the hearts of their communities – in Brighton alone there are over 100 churches – many of which have the potential to contribute to both social and economic prosperity through alternative or complementary uses. 

St Martin’s church, one of the largest churches in Brighton, is no exception.  

This competition invites teams to think creatively about this Grade II* church and generate innovative but commercially sustainable new uses for the buildings.  The client, The Diocese of Chichester, is seeking viable, practical, original and hugely creative ideas that can be used as the spring board for conversations with investors, by drawing attention to the opportunities that are available for this church. 

Whilst this is not a live project the competition hopes to bring forward solutions that could be implemented in the future. Therefore competitors will need to show that their ideas are viable and have the capacity to be turned into a real project.

The newly formed trust A Better Brighton & Hove, which is championing new ways to solve local problems in Brighton & Hove, is backing the Diocese with this competition.

“St Martin’s is big in both floor space and volume, and I see no reason why additional space cannot be created to result in a very large area that can be put to a variety of uses - be they commercial, cultural or community.  Care will be needed to reflect and incorporate the magnificent internal features, but we could end up with a very exciting project. 

If we find viable ways to restore this magnificent building then we may have a great blueprint for others to use in the future."

— Peter Field the Lord-Lieutenant of East Sussex, and chair of the Jury Panel

The constraints and opportunities of the brief

St Martin’s church is an extraordinary building and it warrants a second lease of life.  With its location, its scale and its volume, it also has huge potential for redevelopment.

Founded as a mission church in 1867 by The Rev Arthur Wagner, St Martin’s was rebuilt in the 1870’s by Wagner and his brothers, in memory of their father The Rev Henry Wagner.  It is the first major work by George Somers Clarke Junior, a pupil of Sir Gilbert Scott and a friend of the family.  It is Grade II * listed.

It is a rather plain, brown brick building, built in the ‘early English style’ with an open bell-turret (a poor substitute for the large saddleback tower and belfry of the original design, which was not built due to lack of funds).  However, the rather unassuming exterior is in stark contrast to the impressive interior space, where all the fittings were designed by Somers Clarke in consultation with Henry Wagner and executed under his supervision.  Pevsner describes the “…breathtaking magnificence of the interior [which] derives from the cathedral-like scale…”.

It is the church’s interiors that justify its listing and, while it may be possible to exercise ‘ecclesiastical exemption’ when negotiating listed building status, any redevelopment will need to consider the historical content in the church and the magnificence of its internal volume.  The timber reredos with its 69 statues is noteworthy, as are the stained glass windows, most of which came from the workshop of James Powell & Sons of Whitefriars, where the well-known artist Henry Holiday was the principal designer.  However, it is the painted ceiling, added in 1887, and illustrating “the missionary enterprise of 18 Christian centuries”, that is one of the churches most striking features. In addition, given that St Martin is the patron saint of soldiers, military interests are strongly represented in this church; there are war memorials outside and inside the church including the Burma Star memorial where members of the Burma Star Association still take part in remembrance services.

The cathedral-like interior of the church is capable of holding a congregation of 1,500 people. At the moment, it is home to a congregation of around 60 people, many of whom are concerned for the future of their church.  It is the intention to retain a consecrated space in any redevelopment: mass is said every day.  


It is assumed that the church hall can be demolished and replaced with a new building; any new buildings will need to respect the local planning strategy and framework. 

However, in keeping with its place within the local community, the church hall and the church itself are also used for community gatherings, concerts, scouts, fitness classes and schools’ visits. therefore, some sort of community space would therefore be welcome in any future development.

In addition to any redevelopment of the church hall, competitors should consider new uses for the church itself, making use of the volume and scale of the space while respecting the integrity of the listed interiors.


The site, on one of Brighton’s main arterial roads, comprises the church itself (approximately 1040sqm) and a church hall (approximately 210sqm).  The entire footplate of the site is included in this brief.  

The client is looking for innovative and extraordinary ideas however, they must be capable of being delivered and competitors are therefore asked to explain the commercial viability of their proposals.  Please refer to the Judging Criteria below.

Background information

The following information is available to competitors in the sidebar of this web page 

  • The Church Guide
  • Extract from Pevsner 
  • The latest Quinquennial Inspection Report for the church
  • Current uses of the church
  • Site plan
  • Floor plan of the church
  • Original drawings of the church



For general background, two books by Anthony Dale have been suggested: 

  • The Wagners of Brighton (1983)
  • Brighton Churches (1989)


Teams intending to enter this competition are asked to register their intent by 17.00 hours on Wednesday 12 September.  This is to enable us to gauge the number of entries that we are likely to receive, however, submissions will be accepted from teams that do not register.

An email confirmation, providing the name and contact details (organisation, phone and email address) of the lead consultant in the team should be sent to

Competition format and prizes

The competition will be judged in two Stages.  


An open invitation to interested teams to submit early design ideas in response to the competition brief. 

A Jury Panel, assisted by a Technical Panel, will assess the submissions and select three teams to take part in Stage 2.  


The three shortlisted teams will be given the opportunity to develop their ideas further and put forward a broad business plan to support their proposals. 

Each team will then be invited to present its ideas to the Jury Panel.  Following the interviews a winner will be selected.


The three shortlisted teams will each receive a monetary prize. 

The winning team will receive a prize of £10,000 and the two runners-up will receive £6,000 each.  Prizes are inclusive of VAT.

Who can enter

We welcome collaborations between Architects, Surveyors, Landscape Architects, Engineers, Developers, Interior Designers, Product Designers, Artists, Entrepreneurs, Investors, End Users / Occupiers and any other specialists with ideas to contribute.

Whilst there are no restrictions on the composition of the team it is envisaged that each team will include a registered Architect and that the Architect will be the team leader.   


14 August 2018                    Launch

13.00 to 16.00 
30 August 2018                    Site visit

17.00 12 September 2018     Deadline for Registration

13.00 17 September 2018     Deadline for Stage 1 submissions

09 October 2018                  Jury review submissions and select shortlist

18 October 2018                  Shortlisted teams notified and unsuccessful advised

29 October 2018                  Second stage brief issued

26 November 2018               Deadline for Stage 2 submissions

19 December 2018               Interviews with shortlisted teams

w/c 07 January 2018           Select and announce winner

Stage 1 submission requirements

The deadline for submissions is 13.00 on Monday 17 September.  

The Colander office will be open to receive submissions between 09.30 and 13.00 on Monday 17 September.  Please note that we cannot guarantee that we will be able to accept submissions outside these hours.  

One hard copy and a digital copy of the submission is required:

  1. 1 cover sheet containing, on a single side of A4:
    • Name of the lead organisation or person, with contact details (name, address, phone number and postal address). 
    • Names of other individuals or organisations in the team 
  2. Two A2, foam mounted boards that explain the design ideas being put forward by the team, using plans, sections, sketches and images as appropriate.
  3. A short written report of no more than two sides of A4 describing the design idea, the new uses proposed for the building and the viability of these uses. 
  4. Short CVs of the key people in the team, including their professions and the role that they are taking on this project.

All text should be at a minimum of font size 10.

The digital copy should be submitted, with the hard copy, on a USB stick with each of the four items (above) in its own document / folder.  

Submissions should be sent, carriage paid, to:

St Martin’s Church Competition
Colander Associates
Hill House
Fox Hill
London SE19 2XA

T:  +44 (0)20 8771 6445

Please note that submissions will not be accepted via email.

Overseas competitors should note that for Customs purposes no commercial value should be assigned to the design submission.  If a commercial value is given, this may result in your submission being delayed and/or returned to you unopened, as Colander Associates will not be liable for any Customs charges otherwise incurred. 

Competitors are advised to retain copies of their submission.  

Questions and answers

Questions are not permitted at Stage 1 of this competition. If clarifications are deemed necessary, they will be added to this web page in the section marked Updates and clarifications. 

Teams selected to take part in Stage 2 will have the opportunity to ask questions.

Site visit

An official site visit will take place on 30 August 2018, 13.00 to 16.00 when the church will be open for competitors to look around. It is not necessary to register to attend this visit.  Louise Harrison from the Colander Office will attend this visit. If competitors wish to view the inside of the church, they are advised to attend on this date.  

In addition, St Martin’s Church is usually open to the public on Wednesday afternoons from 13.00 to 15.00 and on Saturday mornings from 11.30 to 13.30, however, this cannot be guaranteed.  To avoid any disappointment competitors are strongly advised to ring the church office on 01273 689989 to confirm whether or not it will be open. 

The Jury Panel

The Jury Panel will be chaired by Peter Field, Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex and will include:  

  • Scott Ralph, Diocesan Property Director, Diocese of Chichester
  • Nick Hibberd, Executive Director, Economy Environment and Culture, Brighton City Council
  • Louise Arnell, The Pebble Trust
  • John Godfrey, Sussex Heritage Trust
  • Julia Barfield, Marks Barfield Architects, Independent Architectural Assessor
  • Graham Turner, Former Chair of Rydon Group and Croydon Tramtrack Ltd.

Any additions or changes to this panel will be posted on this website.

The Technical Panel

The Jury Panel will be assisted during this competition by a Technical Panel.  Each member of the Technical Panel, appointed for their specific knowledge of issues explored in this competition, will review all Stage 1 and Stage 2 submissions and submit a report to the Jury Panel before it judges each stage, to assist in the process of selecting the shortlisted and then the winning teams.

Membership of the Technical Panel is yet to be finalised but will include:

  • Father Trevor, The Incumbent of St Martin’s Church
  • Jo Thompson, Regeneration Project Manager, Brighton City Council
  • Tim Jefferies, Principle Planning Officer, Heritage, Brighton City Council

Any additions or changes to this panel will be posted on this website.

The judging criteria

This competition will not be judged anonymously.

As already stated, the client is expecting to see viable, practical, original and hugely creative ideas that highlight the opportunities that are available for this beautiful church.

The Jury Panel will take the following issues into consideration when making their selection at Stage 1 of the competition:

 Problem definition

  • Does the team have a clear understanding of the constraints and opportunities associated with this challenge?

 Design solution

  • Are the design ideas inspiring? 
  • Do the design ideas respect the quality and history of the current building, inside and out?
  • Do the design ideas clearly address practical issues, so that they can be implemented and sustained in the real world? 
  • Is the design flexible enough to withstand changing needs over time?

 Potential for new uses 

  • Are the proposed uses of the building viable?  
  • Do the proposed uses sit comfortably within the space available?

Economic sustainability

  • Has the team developed a plan for the economic sustainability of its proposal?
  • Has an end-user or investor been identified?

The team 

  • Has the team engaged a strong group of advisors and/or partners?
  • Does the team include the diversity of expertise necessary to accomplish its goals?
  • Is the team passionate? 

Please note that it will not be possible to give detailed feedback to teams that are not shortlisted. All teams shortlisted to Stage 2 of the competition will be given feedback, if requested. 


The architectural press will be asked to give coverage to this competition as will national, local and church press.

In addition, on completion, a gallery of the shortlisted submissions will be set up on the Colander website.


The ownership of copyright of all ideas submitted will be in accordance with the Copyright, Designs & Patent Act 1988.


Any submission shall be excluded from the competition if:

  • It is received after the submission deadline
  • In the opinion of the jury panel, it does not fulfil the requirements of the brief
  • A competitor improperly attempt to influence the decision
  • Any of the mandatory requirements of the competition brief and conditions are disregarded.


While the information contained in this document is believed to be correct at the time of issue, neither the Diocese of Chichester nor its advisors make any warranty or representation (express or implied) with respect to such information; nor will they accept any liability for its accuracy, adequacy or completeness. 

Colander Associates has taken all reasonable efforts to ensure that the information included is accurate, however, it cannot be held responsible for any inaccuracies or inconsistencies.