Blessed John XXIII Church + Parish Centre

By Fulton Trotter Architects
public buildings

Cnr Perfection Avenue and Bentwood Terrace, Stanhope Gardens, NSW 2768

By: Fulton Trotter Architects

Blessed John Church XXIII, photography by Eric Sierins. Copyright, all rights reserved.

How does the project respond to its context, contribute to the public domain for example street or neighbourhood?

Our design brief was to complete a church which celebrated the openness and spirit of the Vatican II facilitated by Pope John XXIII.

The solution is a church which sits atop a significant local hill with a beacon like spire which night and day projects the churches presence in the community.

It is a modern church built of local materials and technologies.

Its plan is an axial triangular arrangement around the procession from Narthex to Sanctuary. The triangular plan brings the sanctuary into the congregation for an open and involved liturgy.

What problems did you have to solve?

Our expression of the project can be divided into several significant components. To develop these ideas, we imagined the site as a religious space before settlement. We also imagined its connection to the 2000 year history of the Christian church. In essence, the church is an abstraction of an idea of an ancient space in a clearing in what would have been the woodlands that this site comprised before Sydney was developed.

The Structural core of the building is a massive off form concrete portal structure and related columns and substructure, recalling ancient ruins in our abstract idea.

The outer structure of the nave is built of timber columns and struts representing the trees at the edge of this ancient clearing.

The roof form of the building is 7 planes of steel roofing separated by glazing representing the canopies of the trees in our abstracted clearing providing the dappled internal light one would expect.

The Cross at the apex of the central roof which projects down to the font at the entrance to the church represents the light of God entering our space.

The glossy sanctuary and fine altar capture the special presence of God within an otherwise natural matt finished building.

These ideas, which were developed at the very start of design, remained the driving architectural force for the duration of the project.

What was the contribution of others, including engineers, landscape architects, artists, builders and other specialists to the outcome?

This project was designed and built by a collaborative approach. Consultants include: Bligh Tanner, Kingston and Associates, Rixon Design, Renzo Tonin, Acor Consultants, EDAW and Hanna Newman. The builder for the project was Colsten Constructions.

What are some important sustainability aspects of the project?

The building is constructed with a polished concrete floor over a subfloor air space. It has a concrete main superstructure, with a structural steel outer and upper roof structure.

Timber columns and struts hold the outer roofs and provide an outer colonnade between the parishioners and the outer wall. Pre-finished steel sheeting is used for both roof and external wall surfaces.

Internally, the space has modest finishes of white plaster and perforated clear finished plywood. Its reverberation time is 1.7 seconds, similar to the concert hall in the Sydney Opera House making it an ideal space for liturgy.

Various components from older churches in the district, such as the 150yr old tabernacle, and the font from the ruin of the burnt out Parramatta Cathedral, have been used to connect this new building to its local history.

Heating and cooling of the church is achieved through passive and low energy solutions.

In summer the spire acts as a heat chimney with hot rising air expelled through operable louvres near the apex. Cool air is drawn in through an under floor labyrinth using the thermal mass of this space to advantage. It flows into the church through ducts between the outer “tree” column timbers.

What do you consider to be the benefits of the project for the client, users and the community?

The impact of natural light on the space is a central theme of the design. The major glazed spire rising from the sanctuary and over the font powerfully lights the Sanctuary from above. At night this space acts as a lantern to the world.

The nave has open views to the surrounding community school and the suburbs beyond. The blessed sacrament chapel and sanctuary form the core of the space.