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Historic Scotland

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The non-traditional church: post-Second World War churches

After the Second World War there was a massive programme of building public housing, in new outer suburbs of the cities and large towns, and in 'New Towns'. The building of churches was an integral part of the creation of these new housing areas.

Building materials of all kinds were rationed for some time after the war, and architects struggled to produce designs which provided large amounts of space with minimal quantities of materials.

Many churches of the period were 'hall churches', in which the worship space was used for secular purposes during the week.

Among the new approaches to design were the use of flat or curved roofs, covered with roofing felt, and the use of steel frames. Brick was very generally used for walls, either exposed or harled. For the first time, on any scale, cavity-wall construction was used. Reinforced-concrete construction, introduced before the War, became fairly common.

From the late 1950s design became significantly more adventurous, as architects and patrons embraced the 'International Modernist' style. This put a premium on clean, simple forms, and led to such visual devices as concealed roofs, and placing rainwater downpipes inside walls. 'New' materials, notably copper-cladding of roofs and fascias, were introduced, and the use of unorthodox positions for windows, to create special lighting effects, became common.

The variety of architectural expression in churches built from the late 1950s to the mid-1970s is such that only a few of the more common features are picked out on this website as illustration.

Because of economy in the use of materials, the use of relatively untried methods of construction, and difficulty of maintenance, many churches of this period have had structural problems, and some have had to be demolished.

  

St. Pauls Roman Catholic Church, Shettleston, Glasgow.

St. Columba's Roman Catholic Church, Renfrew, Renfrewshire (Roof now altered).

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