The changes that will be made to the property serve to increase its flexibility and functionality as a resource centre for reconciliation, while introducing new technology that will equip the space for these needs.
Exterior changes are intended to restore the house to the way it was before the bombing, as the 1950’s reconstruction did not follow the original design very closely. Changes include replacing the current door, a thick framed single door, to a narrow double leaf door, and reincorporating circular garden features in the front which will also encompass a ramp for accessibility. Necessary repairs such as restoring the roof, windows and gutters will also commence.
The interior spaces will be reworked to make them more functional as a conference centre rather than a residence. This includes adding cloakrooms, storage for delegates and moving the kitchen and equipping it for catering. Accessibility issues will also be addressed, including adding a lift and making WCs handicapped accessible.
The second floor will be simplified to have five rooms, two of which will include small kitchenettes so as to serve as accommodation or office space as needed. The annex building known as No. 10A will be renovated into a small flat separate from the main house which can be used to house visiting lecturers or scholars-in-residence.
Walking around St Michael’s House, one will notice a diverse range of names for the rooms. In redesignating the house as a space for reconciliation, various individuals have been honoured for their work in this field. Downstairs there is the Brandt Suite, named for Willy Brandt, winner of the 1971 Nobel Peace Prize, mayor of West Berlin from 1957–1966 and Chancellor of West Germany from 1969–1974. The Provost Howard Library is named for Provost Howard of Coventry Cathedral, who first wrote ‘Father Forgive’ on the back of the ruined Cathedral after it was bombed. His belief in forgiveness rather than revenge was the foundation upon which the reconciliation ministry at Coventry Cathedral was built.
Upstairs is the Kennedy Suite, which commemorates the now demolished Kennedy House. Named for the U.S. President John F. Kennedy, this youth hostel was opened by Willy Brandt in 1962 and served as accommodation for the many volunteers coming to Coventry. The last room upstairs is the Provost Williams Dining Room, named for Bill Williams, who pioneered Coventry’s reconciliation ministry.
This development will take place in a number of phases, beginning in autumn 2012. Designed to create a relaxed, warm and welcoming space, the restoration will result in a house where those who feel called to answer the challenge of reconciliation can come and be refreshed and resourced.