The origins of Norwich Central Baptist Church (NCBC) date back to the Toleration Act of 1689. The current building was built in 1952 and in 2003 a merger of two congregations took place – Dereham Road Baptist Church and St Mary’s – to form NCBC.
Shortly after the merger, LSI Architects were commissioned to update and improve facilities. We were appointed to improve the acoustic for speech and amplified music.
The main problem was the high barrel ceiling which resulted in a very uneven distribution of reflected sound, while not providing any early reflections for speakers and musicians. We designed a set of lightweight convex reflectors to go over the altar and platform. Through our very careful design and location, these now provide early reflections to the area around the altar for services and to the stage area for concerts. They also intercept and redirect sound which would otherwise be focussed to the centre of the stalls by the concave ceiling.
A significant amount of time was taken up modelling the optimum position of these reflectors using CATT-Acoustic software.
We also designed a new sound system with different configurations for speech and music. The previous outdated system provided a lot of bass amplification which impaired the speech intelligibility.
Part of our brief was to accommodate traditional music, enabling the church to host many successful concerts. Visiting performers include Norwich Baroque – a period instrument ensemble well suited to the improved acoustic of NCBC.
Norwich Baroque Administrator and violinist Jane Slocombe summed up as follows: “It is rare to find a space so totally user-friendly as the sanctuary at NCBC for an ensemble our size. The wonderful sound engineering surprised every soloist who played or sang with us there. It has managed to give us the resonance and clarity we needed. Certainly our favourite venue.”
Client : NCBC
Architect : LSI Architects
Refurbishment cost: undisclosed
Photo credits: AJA / Norwich Baroque / Peter King