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New Zealand Institute of Architects

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St. Marys Church & Community Centre

Context St Marys Community Centre project linking St Marys Church, St Josephs Hall and Te Rau Oriwa Urban Marae was easily the most difficult architectural problem we have addressed to date. Three very different adjacent buildings and institutions were to have their operational, cultural and architectural issues resolved in one new building project. The three existing buildings are both significant for different reasons. The church was an iconic 1970s pure octagonal church with inadequate supporting spaces. It had a tiny entry and porte cohere of two pyramid roofs located at the apex of a steep slope on a hill top. It was difficult to approach and enter – facing the prevailing weather. It had liturgical problems but had a sound main space. The presbytery was a historic brick villa in poor condition crowding the church with poor linkages to the church and Marae, and hopelessly inadequate facilities for the required uses. It had been scheduled for demolition from 1975 when the church was built. The Hall and Marae building was separated from the church by distance, a large change of level, and a vehicle access road. The community, cultural and church uses often clashed with a same entry and hall space serving both Marae and Church. Design intent Our design bridged the gap between the key buildings with new parishes offices and community ministry facilities at a new intermediate level between the existing church and the Hall and Marae building. It combined all buildings as one integrated church and community centre that allowed multiple co-existing uses in a complementary manner. New Parish offices and meeting rooms, and a series of atrium spaces are created in the spaces between the existing buildings. The form of the new building has a single pitch sloping clearstory roof that is inclined in two directions – from the church towards the hall, and from the church towards a new lower level entry to the new community centre, inflecting orientation and movement towards the church as the major building. The significance of this architecture is in the creation of the new platform level between the two existing buildings at a higher level. The new platform and the approach carpark were both raised to create a gently sloping approach. The complexity of the existing buildings forms are resolved with a contrasting contemporary formal geometry updating the churches image, creating clear entry, and mediating between the aesthetic of the two existing buildings. The new hierarchy of double duty spaces has created opportunity for more intensive and complementary uses to co-exist and to operate at the same time. The church has also had a minor refurbishment and reordering.

 
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