Ulster’s Evangelical Plain Style: A Visual Inquiry

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The paper explores the design of the small evangelical halls that exist across the nine counties of Ulster. Conceived of as conduits to salvation, as representing the current non-material iteration of God’s holy temple, and even as prefiguring the coming eschaton, these are simple and unassuming buildings, decorated largely with text. The paper argues that the ‘plain style’ provides a fruitful approach to consideration of the materiality of these spaces. Plain style is defined as a complex denial of ostentation and elaboration in design and communication that is linked to reformed Protestantism. Contending that such a plain style must engage with the quotidian and the contingent, the importance and the problems of photo-documentation as a method of inquiry are discussed. The paper argues that a careful and reflexive approach to photography and analysis, drawing on keywording and metadata provides a method suitable for exploration of such 'new' spaces where access must be negotiated with care. The paper concludes by presenting some findings drawn from a keywording approach to the visual data and relating the use of text, materials and building forms to an everyday plain style.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberRFAC 2153543
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalArchitecture and Culture
Early online date23 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished online - 23 Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

This work was supported by the Department for the Economy (DfE) of Northern Ireland.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • evangelical architecture
  • mission hall
  • gospel hall
  • Northern Ireland
  • Ulster
  • vernacular
  • photography
  • metadata


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