St Bride’s has been hailed as an extraordinary piece of contemporary ecclesiastical architecture and received the RIBA bronze medal for architecture in 1964, for the area of the Glasgow Institute of Architects. The expressionistic design of the exterior of St Bride’s is enhanced by the dramatic chiaroscuro effect of the interior, which has Baroque overtones.
St Bride’s Church is a Category A listed Gillespie, Kidd and Coia Church in East Kilbride completed in 1963-4. It is a monolithic, rectangular plan Roman Catholic Church with a paved piazza and mainly single storey presbytery constructed in red brick.
The intention of the project was to restore the Church, Presbytery and Chapel House to their original condition, making minor alterations and improvements where necessary to comply with current regulations and standards where practicable without affecting the character and main features of the building. The building would have met the fire safety guidance at the time of construction and it was recognised that these are different from the modern technical guidance clauses.
Balancing the architectural and historic importance of a building with the requirements of the regulations needed an understanding of the way in which a traditional building performs, and careful application of regulatory requirements. Rather than attempt to get the church to conform to the standard guidance, fire engineering was applied to demonstrate that the building meets an acceptable level of safety.
The historic main church benefits from having a vaulted high ceiling and Atelier Ten used this to act as a smoke fill reservoir and through the use of advanced computer fire simulation calculated the time for the smoke from a fire to fill the area and block the escape routes. By establishing this smoke fill time, Atelier Ten were able to compare this to the actual evacuation time for the church. This was achieved with both computer simulated and real-time evacuations conducted by the school. As it was successfully demonstrated that the occupants could evacuate the church before the escape routes were blocked by fire/smoke, the church could be restored to its original function and purpose.