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Cemetery Road Baptist Church is a Christian place of worship for a multi-ethnic, largely immigrant congregation in one of Sheffield's most deprived inner-city areas.

The layout of the south facing Victorian Grade II listed main church building remains relatively unchanged since its construction in 1867. Over the years, extensions to the North, East and West have been added to facilitate additional community gatherings, workshops and reception spaces with access from Napier Street to the North of the site.

At the time of commencement of our Agile in Building project, church governors had previously engaged a professional architect to review the property needs of the Church and to arrive at a masterplan for the next ten years.

The resulting masterplan arrived at an 8-phase plan to respond to the client brief for an upgraded building that would do more to raise the profile of the church in the local community.


After a church pulpit and social media call to the two hundred strong community of church members and volunteer workers, twenty-three of them registered on our website to join the Agile in Buildings user group.  The subsequent ideas charrette painted a picture of a building that was physically divided into two halves. The main church area for worship services was accessed via a processional stair on Cemetery Road to enter to the church at first floor level. The community activities of the church are accessed via Napier Street entrance.  Users communicated the frustrations but also the advantages of access from Napier Street. Of highest concern, the Church was known as Cemetery Road Baptist Church, but most events were accessed through Napier Street causing great confusion to visitors. Security concerns meant the church doors on the busier thoroughfare remained closed, so access for visitors was always a challenge.  To most passers by the building looks empty. Users wanted a building that could be accessed more freely, was inviting, but was cognoscente of the security issues of the area. They were also keen the building should be more navigable and transparent once inside. It's fair to say that many of the items highlighted in the charrette were reflected in the architect's original masterplan.


When users and our designers conducted a site visit to understand the access dilemmas, ideas for how users might solve the highlighted problems were discussed.  Back in the charrette the co-design designers and user teams arrived at a solution that saw a departure from that proposed previously.

A glass link was conceived to connect Cemetery Road to Napier Street along the East elevation of the church. The new link space solved a great many incumbent access and street profile issues.  It provided clarity to visitors; it was an accessible space but still a security buffer to the rest of the church. It connected to existing internal primary routes and neutralised the navigation issues. It became a “heart space” a place for events and community. It celebrates the architecture of the church giving new civic meaning to it.  Users loved it and now have another dilemma.  Should they build the link or follow the previously developed masterplan?

Later, our lead designer confessed, this exquisite solution was only made possible through Agile Methodology's instant validation by users.  The original architect just did not have this second voice to validate decisions at the point of conception.  Agile user-centric design does not come up a vastly different list of issues to be addressed, nor does it do away with the need for great architecture.  With the aid of users it validates and prioritises the list of requirements so that the things of most value to those who will use the church day to day are highlighted.  All of this allows value and thus funding to be better targeted.  Enabling a series of solutions that are owned, loved and fundable by the people who matter most. 



Client : Cemetery Rd. Baptist Church

Construction Value: undisclosed

Date: September 2019

Floor Area: 2400m2



Model showing the design for the new link corridor.

VIDEO - how Agile happened

VR MODEL - take a tour

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Click image to download the model and experience what it's like to look around yourself.


"The whole process has been enlightening and helpful.

We appreciated the valuable guidance and input into our overall vision-clarification and  briefing process.”

- Church Governor

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