Dapto Anglican Church Auditorium

By Silvester Fuller
public buildings

Moombara Street, Dapto NSW 2530

By: Silvester Fuller

DACA, photograph by Martin van der Wal

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

The Dapto Anglican Church Auditorium is the first of a new generation of buildings for the Anglican Parish of Dapto. The design is a response to the changing functional and social direction of the church and its relationship with the community.

Intended to complement nearby St Lukes Chapel, the auditorium offers a theatre like venue for a broader range of event types. No longer a place devoted solely to Sunday worship services, the new church building is required to support a wide range of events held in the morning, afternoon and evening, 7 days a week and catering to a broad range of the local community.

A challenging context, the site is surrounded by a mall car park, a dog racing track, a McDonalds and a petrol station.The parish had outgrown their existing facilities and the desire for this site was to create an open and welcoming face. To omit all religious motif which would identify the site solely as a church.

The organisational strategy for the site involved the relocation of vehicular traffic to the site perimeter, allowing for a fully pedestrianised centre. The new auditorium was then to be located on the site with minimal intervention to the existing buildings. For this reason the perimter plan of the new auditorium is bounded by the two existing buildings; a preschool and a church hall. Locating the auditorium between these two facitlites presented the opportunity to create a central hub, from which all the primary event spaces, in both the new and existing buildings, are accessed. This hub becomes the campus meeting place.

What problems did you have to solve?

Presented with a brief for a suburban black-box church, the design response repositions the church as a gathering point for the community. DACA is a reinterpretation of the traditional church within a contemporary social, environmental and economic context. 

The underlying concept is that of gathering, by which the defined building mass is directly shaped. Circulation spaces are carved away, informed by the flow of people in and around the two primary spaces; the auditorium and foyer. This subtraction of mass defines voids which connect these spaces to each other and the landscape. The secondary support spaces occupy the remaining solid mass.

 

DACA is a reinterpretation of the traditional church within a contemporary social, environmental and economic context. Presented with a brief for a suburban black-box church, the design response repositions the church as a gathering point for the community.
The underlying concept is that of gathering, by which the defined building mass is directly shaped. Circulation spaces are carved away, informed by the flow of people in and around the two primary spaces; the auditorium and foyer. This subtraction of mass defines voids which connect these spaces to each other and the landscape. The secondary support spaces occupy the remaining solid mass.

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

The project was a collaborative effort and the project team immediately embraced the spirit of the project working hard to identify unique but cost effective solutions.

Many volunteer groups were mobilised to reduce the costs where possible and the design of many aspects of the project were undertaken with this in mind. We essentially had 400 clients all of whom were contributing in some way to realise this project. Sometimes this meant that elements were not finished exactly as we had intended but more important is the pride and sense of ownership the parish and community now have.

How would you describe the value of design in relation to the cost of the project?

The budget was very modest and the initial brief did not correlate with this. We spent a number of months understanding the current uses, the future vision and needs of the various user groups. By unlocking potential in the existing buildings we were able to arrive at a more realistic and efficient program for the new building.

The modest budget demanded construction simplicity combined with spatial clarity and efficiency, to produce a building that is easily understood whilst standing apart from its context. We worked hard to incorporate many bespoke elements ensuring that layer of uniqueness and joy was not lost. Desirable but non-essential elements can be added over time as funds are raised, including the 'natural light' lampshade to the auditorium and a custom cafe bar.

 The new building aims to establish a new design direction and focus for the Parish and is envisaged as stage one of a masterplan of growth.

What are some important sustainability aspects of the project?

Something we consider to be an important design driver on all our projects is to ensure projects are not only environmentally sustainable, but both financially and socially sustainable as well.

In collaboration with ARUP many environmental options were explored for the building. Simple passive solutions were employed for the bulk of the building.

The auditorium is air-conditioned this being the most cost effective solution for the sudden and varied loads. The placement of openings allows good cross ventilation throughout the communal spaces all year round. These openings are recessed to ensure summer-time self shading and winter-time warming, greatly reducing the cooling and heating loads with out the need for costly shading additions or performance glazing. The air-conditioning can be switched from the auditorium to the foyer to heat or cool the communal spaces should the need arise during special events or extreme weather.

Rainwater collection tanks are located visibly to foster awareness. These are utilised for toilet flushing and irrigation.

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

DACA has already become an important part of the church and wider community. There have been community movie nights, groups wishing to hire the venue for independent events, the cafe is well patronised and profitable and the local school kids make use of the cafe and lounges to do their homework after school.

Most importantly the Dapto Anglican Parish is now able to undertake the kind of ministry they had always envisaged. They were a wonderful client and the success of the project is a real credit to them.