Lynch, N. 2016. Domesticating the church: the reuse of urban churches as loft living in the post-secular city, Social and Cultural Geography, 17(7), pp.849-870.
In recent years, numerous mainline Christian denominations throughout Canada have sold their places of worship in the real estate market in response to declines in religious membership and participation. At the same time, a growing demand for creative residential spaces by a group of the new middle class encourages the redevelopment of churches into upscale lofts, a practice connected to but divergent from the post-industrial loft living made popular in cities like New York. In this paper, I explore how the production and consumption of churches as lofts represents a novel terrain of private urban redevelopment. Church lofts are an emergent form of housing and the latest frontier in the remaking of material, cultural and religious landscapes in the post-secular city – a context where novel forms of secularity take shape alongside new expressions of religion. With an empirical focus on Toronto, I investigate how ‘redundant’ worship spaces are appropriated and transformed into private domestic spaces of commodified religion and heritage. Rebuilt as unique but exclusive places to live, church lofts are part of a secular upscaling of the central city, a process that increasingly remakes the city as a place of capital reinvestment, middle-class colonization and socio-secular upgrading.
Stephenson, B. 2015. “I have a brick from the building: the deconsecration of Highgate United Church.” Practical Matters: a transdisciplinary multimedia journal of religious practices and practical theology, vol. 8
Church closure is a prominent phenomenon of the religious landscape in Europe and North America. Demographic and financial pressures, along with cultural changes, have led to the closure of scores of churches in recent years. Christian denominations are struggling to practically manage and pastorally and liturgically respond to church closure, deconsecration, and reuse of church buildings. This paper involves a study of the deconsecration of a small-town, rural church. The author argues that utopian theology and theory is ill-equipped to meet the challenges of deconsecration, since lived religious life, perhaps especially in small communities, is deeply rooted in a locative sense of and attachment to place.
Lynch, N. 2013. Divine Living: Marketing and Selling Churches as Lofts in Toronto, Canada. Housing, Theory and Society, 31 (2), pp. 192-212.
A growing number of churches no longer used by religious groups have been converted to loft housing. Church lofts offer consumers heritage architecture and unique aesthetics, elements that distinguish these spaces in the housing market. In order to sell converted churches as viable homes, however, developers and their marketing teams deploy a variety of marketing strategies. Through an analysis of advertising media in Toronto, Ontario, in this paper, I show how former churches are repackaged and promoted with a heritage identity that fits a normative ideal of upscale loft living. In particular, I analyse three central marketing themes: the reinvention of a church to a house and home, the production of identity through place names and the representation of church lofts in the urban landscape. Woven together, these themes rewrite a building’s religious past and legitimize an emerging housing market that makes use of built religious heritage.
Lynch, N. 2011. Converting Space in Toronto: The Adaptive Reuse of the Former Centennial Japanese United Church to the “Church Lofts”, Journal of the Society for Architecture in Canada, 36 (11), pp.63-74
This paper traces the adaptive reuse of the former Centennial Japanese United Church to the Church Lofts—a transformation that has taken this building from a religious place of worship to a set of upscale residential lofts. My aim is to illuminate some of the specific architectural processes and social-cultural conditions that have made the Church Lofts possible. Following a description of the history and original construction of the building, I explore it s contemporary renovation into upscale loft properties. As this case study shows, I argue that along with the material transformation of the built structure the adaptive reuse of redundant churches often requires a concomitant adaptation of symbolic elements. That is, the creation of the Church Lofts partly involves the reproduction and promotion of “authenticity” through a recognizable yet unique loft-living brand, a marketable identity which is constructed in the commodification of the building’s pre-established material heritage and by the adaptation of a diffused religious heritage.