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The idea of building a secular chapel has been kicking around in my head for years but it wasn’t until 2011, when the Living Architecture project put me in contact with Charles Holland of FAT Architecture, that I got my chance. We began by looking at all sorts of things that I liked such as Russian churches and Japanese temples and shrines.
My first ideas looked a bit Hobbity, or like something from Game of Thrones: ramshackle with lots of turrets. But as time went on we began to get closer to what it would finally be. I had always wanted it to look like a chapel with bits added on to it, symmetrical and quite small, a Fabergé egg of a building. And I wanted it to be highly ornamented, so we looked at pargetting, relief plasterwork on thatched houses, usually of hunting scenes or heraldry, which you see in the quainter parts of north Essex.
The green drawing shows some of these ideas, but they were eventually parked because they were impractical, and we decided on tiling the exterior, which was when all parties agreed we had got it right.
The whole building is in effect the story of an imaginary woman, Julie, an Essex Everywoman whose biography I have written in a long poem and provides a social history of Essex since the war. […]