Tensile Roof Structure.

As part of a £400,000 conservation scheme funded by The Heritage Lottery Fund, in early 2015 Fabric Architecture completed the long-awaited installation of a key preservation element at St Georges Garrison Church, Woolwich. The bespoke tensile fabric and glulam structure is a sympathetic, contemporary addition to the historical ruins following its near destruction in 1944 by a V2 flying bomb.

Working alongside a team of other specialist sub-contractors including Greenwoods Project Management, over 400m2 of bespoke tensile canopy part-houses the decorative and atmospheric remains of the church, providing much needed shelter for the delicate mosaic interiors.

The challenge.

Fabric Architecture took possession of the St George’s Chapel site in mid-April to begin the process of installing the tensile fabric structure. The supporting framework for this particular project is glulam timber rather than the traditional and more frequently used steel. Fabric Architecture engineered the structure in-house and provided the specification to their chosen glulam supplier. Once in place, the glulam framework was covered with the tensile fabric roof canopy to complete to the protective structure over the remains of the Royal Garrison Church of St George.

The build began with framework construction – this entailed a crane lift of the 4 main vaulted roof beams each weighing around 6 tonnes which sit atop 8 supporting columns weighing around 750kgs each, all in glulam. In addition to the 50 tonne crane, the lift required further use of 2 cherry pickers and a large 9m high scaffold tower. The build was carried out by a 6-man crew, made up of 4 tensile fabric riggers and 2 glulam specialists.

Initial challenges for the build related to access – the site had uneven ground which complicated installation of the supporting columns. Fabric Architecture overcame this by laying down a specialist trackway to protect the ground and provide a suitable surface for vehicle access, both for plant equipment and the necessary goods deliveries.

The solution.

The new tensile fabric roof answers the demand for practical weather-protection and injects a new lease of life into the historic venue so that new owners, Heritage of London Trust, can continue to use its inspiring and poignant space for open air services, memorials and community events.

Installation of the tensile fabric roof took place in early May 2015. Fabric Architecture’s handover was followed by a Friends of St. George’s Chapel event, which took place at Woolwich Library where visitors were able to learn more about the restoration project, find out how the community group can use the venue and listen to presentation from the architect and mosaic conservator.