St Barnabas church and adjacent community hall, located on Sydney’s busy Broadway, were destroyed by fire in May 2006. A Sydney institution for over 145 years, efforts to rebuild the church began almost immediately. The architecture of the new church complex seeks to respond to the qualities and great opportunity of this special site in the city, and equally importantly, to the great sense of openness, welcoming and joy that characterises St Barnabas.
The new church offers a peaceful oasis of gathering and worship within the busy noise of the city. It provides a balance of open courtyard, landscaped gardens, informal and formal, fixed and flexible spaces. At the centre of the church is the informal social-heart gathering spaces and thecalm peaceful space of worship.
The gentle rising curved volumes of the worship space characterise and focus the appearance of the church in the city. The worship space, with its folding floor that wraps up around the congregation and opens up to soft cloud-like ceilings, is conceived like an open-hand under the sky; a warm, protective, generous and light-fill space. Complementing the worship space is the counter-curved form of the foyer and social-heart that rises in a gesture of welcome and invitation to the central landscaped courtyard.
Separating these curved forms and courtyard from the street are the linear sheltering frameand canopies that define the entrance streetscape and steps up to the courtyard. These fine framesof off-form concrete open to the street though large windows that accommodate the shop and meeting spaces beneath the awning canopies that project out over the footpath.
The forms of this church are structured, assembled and finished in simple, modest materials,concrete, compressed cement sheet, steel and glass.
THE BARNEYS PHILOSOPHY The irreparable damage of St Barnabas Church by fire in May, 2006 has left the St Barnabas Parish without its traditional home. Its members continue to congregate in temporary accommodation and despite the tragic loss of a well loved building, have had a unique opportunity to assess their philosophies and needs through both the use of unfamiliar venues and the imperative to formulate a brief for their new facilities [see http://barneys.org.au/news/latest/st-barnabas-church-broadway-builds-for-the-future] . Since its inception, the original church was frequently altered in efforts to meet the needs of its users, not necessarily resulting in a format, which ultimately met their requirements.
“The old Church building was a wonderful servant of the St Barnabas community for150 years, and its loss was, and continues to be, deeply mourned. Today however, we are very excited to be planning for the building of something that will serve the needs of St Barnabas and the broader community well into the future” - Ian Powell, Rector
“We see this not as a private project, but as a project for the entire community. We are therefore committed to working alongside all stakeholders, including the City of Sydney Council, the Sydney Diocese of the Anglican Church of Australia, and the Anglican Church Property Trust to develop plans for a wonderful new facility on the Broadway site”Ian Powell, Rector
The Barneys community is dynamic and forward thinking, constantly questioning the traditional way of worship and, in a passionately evangelical way, searching for new ways to inspire both friends and strangers. Members of the parish come from all around Sydney, partially due to the Church’s proximity to three Universities and Moore College. The local population has been until recently inherently in a state of flux - temporary students, shoppers, city workers and short term rentals – typified by Unilodge next door but is currently experiencing significant growth in permanent residents, which will continue as the areas of Chippendale, Ultimo and Redfern are further evolved.
Within Sydney’s collective consciousness lies the history of banter between a minister and a publican. City commuters were entertained for years by the volleys of messages and counter messages on signboards either side of Broadway. Some argue that the author of the “Eternity” signs across Sydney was inspired by a sermon in St Barnabas Church. Ultimately, St Barnabas has a tradition of appealing to a widespread array of people, and as such is well placed to question the role of a church in a distinctly urban community. Its current members wish to take advantage of this as much as possible with the new facilities.
Located so close to the heart of the Sydney Archdiocese and Moore College, St Barnabas has also been the focus of much attention and hot debate within the Anglican Community. The central issue is how should built form reflect the core features of Sydney Evangelical Anglicanism, and indeed what those features are. Its past ministers have a history of becoming leaders of the Anglican Church and there is a strong history of academic and intellectual pursuit. As such the church is far from a typical local church yet has the opportunity to appeal to a growing group of locals as well as being an icon of the future for a section of the Anglican Church.
THE BARNEYS BRIEF Within the months prior to the original building’s destruction, the parish was attempting to amend the Worship Space layout to a more flexible, comfortable and welcoming configuration. The original pews had been removed to make way for single chairs, which could be configured in a variety of ways. Although use was made of a highly respected organ [for its era], the community, consisting of predominantly 20-30 year olds, has tended to prefer modern music for some time. The band is central to their services and has described the conditions in their old church as cramped and invisible to their congregation. Rehearsals were difficult to coordinate and a dedicated, generous space was greatly needed. Despite their love for the old Church, such examples reflect the contrasting needs of the community to their built environment.
A PLACE TO MEET BEYOND THE TRADITIONAL SERVICEThe new brief for St Barnabas Church reflects the needs of a diverse parish. Whilst it is expected that the intense periods of use will continue to be focussed on the weekend, there is a strong desire to diversify the use of the facilities and appeal to a wider community, providing alternative ways of worship and fellowship. The limited facilities of the old church had been used for a range of community uses, such as drama classes and it is intended to expand the focus of the church to allow these activities to thrive in the new space. The brief for the lower level of the church not only accommodates the ministry of the church, but is also driven by a desire to offer space and support to youth, students, families and community groups. A large multipurpose hall will be the centre of the children’s and youth ministry and will be used as an alternative venue for worship, but it is hoped that it may also be rented for weddings and lectures, for recreation or playgroups. Additional provision for meeting spaces, which can be used for lectures, study groups and small functions will be appealing not only to the parish and local groups but to students from the surrounding educational institutions.
The Youth and Children’s ministries previously met in the old church hall. As both of these groups grow, it is important that a suite of spaces is available to divide babies from toddlers, quiet study from active play. These areas need to be secure, yet easily reached from the circulation space.
The milling spaces, which interconnect the primary worship space and other facilities, will be the gel holding the community together. Temporary accommodation at Moore College has allowed the parish to function in a way much closer to their ideal, where it is possible to gather and socialise before and after services, and have a cup of tea and a snack in comfort. Zones within the administration area and within the foyer will offer opportunity for informal gathering and discussion. A welcoming space, which allows this activity to occur, is vital to the reinforcement of the Barneys philosophy. Having this activity visible from the street will activate both Mountain Street and Broadway creating an inviting picture for the passer-by. This is a dramatic change to the form of the traditional church where activities were internally focussed and less inclusive. Reinforcing a more open approach, the brief also calls for a book shop at the Mountain Street entry allowing a sanctuary for newcomers to feel at ease as well as providing information on the Parish, the Anglican Church and books on Christianity. Exhibitions will be held frequwein the lower level foyer detailing the activities of the Church.
THE WORSHIP SPACE The Parish has requested that the Primary worship convey a sense of reverence as well as be designed to “last 100 years”. It is to cater for congregations of slightly over 500 people [600 people are achievable in compliance with standards - though not particularly comfortable], yet should also feel intimate enough for much smaller groups. Although the liturgical requirements of layout are met, options for flexible seating and flexibility of staging are integral to a dynamic range of services. Once again, the parish will benefit greatly from a building which caters more precisely to its needs.
ARCHITECTURAL STATEMENT fjmt have approached the design of a new St Barnabas Anglican Church with the intent of creating a unique church complex that responds to the qualities and great opportunity of this special site in the city and equally importantly to the great sense of openness, welcoming and joy that characterises the parish. Inspiration came from visits and participation in the services of St Barnabas. The design for a new church complex seeks to reflect the values, aspirations and reverence of the congregation.
The new church will offer a peaceful oasis of gathering and worship within the busy noise of the city. It will provide a balance of open courtyard, landscaped gardens, informal and formal, fixed and flexible. At the centre of the church will be the informal social heart gathering spaces and the calm peaceful space of worship. The gentle rising curved volumes of the worship space characterise and focus the appearance of the church in the city. This form rises up and opens to the warmth of the northern reflected light and looks out to a modest and peaceful enclosed court with the cross form elevation at its centre. Complementing the form of the worship space is the curved form of the foyer and social-heart that rises in a gesture of welcome and invitation to the central landscaped forecourt / courtyard. Separating these curved forms and courtyard from the street is the linear sheltering frame and canopies that define the entrance complex and courtyard. These finely framed volumes open to the street through large windows accommodating the shop and meeting spaces and beneath the sheltering canopies that project out over the footpath. The forms of this church are finished in simple modest natural materials, durable and lasting, predominantly white in colour to receive the sun and gently reflect the natural daylight. The complex has been designed to create a low energy, predominantly naturally ventilated, sustainable project that can be a model and benchmark of environmental sustainability.
INVITATION AND WELCOME A sense of invitation and welcoming will characterise the new church. At Broadway this invitation is via a beautiful, landscape mall, forecourt and vista towards the distinctive church entry. At Mountain Street the invitation is via the gentle seating steps that lead up to the peaceful landscaped courtyard and forecourt, or via the generous main entry that opens wide and directly onto Mountain Street. The sense of invitation and welcome is further emphasised through the generous sheltering canopies that characterise the address to Broadway and Mountain Street. All of these welcoming entry points lead directly to the centre of the complex, the Social Heart.
SOCIAL AND SPIRITUAL A peaceful open courtyard is proposed as a community space of gathering and forecourt to the church. This paved and landscaped courtyard is raised up above the street separating it from the busy world of retail and commercial activity, to create a peaceful contemplative gathering space. A gently sloping open pedestrian mall connects the new courtyard with Broadway. This mall is characterised by a grove of deciduous trees, sculptural form and seating to create a sense of gentle transition and invitation. A generous flight of stairs connects the new courtyard with Mountain Street creating a sense of separation and address to the Street. These generous steps create natural seating and meeting space addressing the street and sheltered under the canopy overhead.
SOCIAL HEART At the centre of the new complex is the ‘social heart’; a welcoming social space over two levels that is the common arrival point and gathering space. This is the primary space of welcoming and gathering open directly to the street and courtyard / forecourt with a lofty sense of height and spirit and generous natural light reflected softly from the curved ceilings and directly through the crucifix of light above. This is intended as an informal gathering and social space with the kitchen and café type bar/counter opening onto this generous area and direct access to the major spaces of the church. The function spaces and meeting rooms at the lower-ground level and the primary worship space is raised up on the upper-ground level.
WORSHIP AND GATHERING Complementing the social heart of the complex is the primary worship space. This generous volume has been designed to create a sense of aspiration, peace and contemplation, a place for gathering, collective worship and prayer as well as individual meditation and prayer. The space is lit naturally from high-level skylights that wash light gently over a series of soft, curved surfaces. The worship space has been carefully proportioned and scaled with a series of side aisles and changing ceiling height to be a space equally comfortable for a congregation of 100 or 500. The interconnectivity of the worship space to its milling space and outdoor space reinforces the welcoming nature of the building and when the doors are open allows views from the open space directly into the worship space and vice versa.
MATERIALITY The external materials and finishes primarily consist of standard materials used in a manner which reflects a high level of design and detail. At the entries to the building, the transparency of the interior function to the outside is maximised by full height glass foyer walls [2 storeys to Mountain St]. This allows the activities of the building to be viewed from the street and from the open plaza. The transparency and “shop front” style glazing continues along Mountain St, reflecting the materiality of the adjacent buildings at ground level. Privacy to the spaces beyond is provided through external louvres [St Barnabas St] and interior wooden blinds to Mountain St.
OPERATIONS AND CIRCULATION Arrival There are two formal entrances to the Main Worship Space, either along the ramp from Broadway or up the ceremonial staircase from Mountain Street. These two entrances converge in a generous courtyard in front of the main foyer. The building can also be entered through the lower level of the foyer off Mountain Street. The upper and lower levels of the foyer are connected visually through voids, and with a stair case opposite the entry
During Services During services, most of the congregation are contained within the major meeting spaces, the Main Worship Space, The Multi-Use Hall, and the Meeting rooms. Other rooms such as the crying room, and the large kitchen, and toilet facilities, may also be operational.
Between Services The time between services provides an excellent opportunity for the various groups of people to meet. The people will move from the major meeting spaces into the double height foyer, which is located close to the kitchen for refreshments. When larger numbers of people are present, there is also the opportunity to breakout into the courtyard space.
LIGHTING Lighting Design PhilosophyLight is a fundamental part of life. We intuitively perceive and experience our world through light. uences our health, it reaches our emotions, it inspires us. Our lighting design philosophy for St Barnabas Church aims to create a sustainable atmosphere, not only in terms of energy efficiency, safety, cost and flexibility; but more importantly in terms of human experience and well-being.
Outside Lighting treats the building as a sculpture within its context, and creates/enhances the meaning of it within its surroundings, subtly highlighting the architectural forms of the exteriors, giving orientation and guiding movement. It glows from inside, and attracts the people to walk in, to experience this special place.
Inside Lighting reveals the architecture to create the experience of being in a peaceful, sacred place. Both daylight and artificial light diffuses in the space, evenly and softly illuminating the surfaces brightly, giving the feeling of spirituality and comfort. Light sources are concealed within the architecture and do notbecome visible glare points that interfere with the visual beauty of the space. The warmth of the timber creates a greater level of complexity and variation on the Mountain St Elevation, as well as providing glare control.
The primary concrete structure is expressed as a frame to the Mountain St elevation infilled with pale coloured cladding panels. The frame continues beyond the building envelope providing the structure to a sheltering canopy over the seating steps. The underside of this canopy is also pale to allow good reflection of light at night for illumination of the exterior space.Facing Broadway, the cross-like form of the upper walls allows light to emit from the interiors between the solid, tiled surfaces. In constrast to the smooth paneled faces of the church elevations, an interpretive wall is proposed along the western façade of the plaza, which will reuse the remnant material of the church creating a random texture pattern of brick and stone.
The roof of the church is proposed to be similar in material to the vertical elements so that the form reads as a unified shell. A rain-screen construction allows for a standard metal profile roof under with a panellised system over.It is intended that a fine grained pattern is achieved through the detailing of the cladding panels both on the roof and walls which is continued through the framing of the glazing. Maintaining a simplicity to the material allows the form of the overall project to be emphasised as well as allowing the interiors [through transparency] to become and integral part of the streetscape and open space.
IN CONCLUSION It is a rare and privileged situation to be the Architectural Studio chosen to design a church. It is particularly exciting and challenging in an urban environment, where the building should respond to its typology as both a public and religious building as well as catering for the expanding and changing brief of a dynamic parish and community. The new St Barnabas church is an exercise of urban design as much as it is a building evolving from a brief. Its context, in built form, in social environment and in philosophy, drive its resolution and require it to respond to more than a few stakeholders. It is hoped that the building will be a focal point not only for its direct community [St Barnabas Church and the Anglican Church], but will reach the wider Sydney / Pyrmont community and nearby educational facilities.
ARCHITECT’S HERITAGE RESPONSE The remnants of St Barnabas Church, damaged by fire in 2006 were assessed in a Significance Assessment of Remnant Fabric undertaken by Paul Davies in 2006 and subsequently by Graham Brooks and Associates in 2008 . The conclusion of these reports was that the church’s “fabric no longer has sufficient integrity and significance to support arguing local heritage listing” [GBA]. The hall “would not meet the criteria for a local heritage item”, and the vestry’s heritage significance, due to its modest design and substantial alteration, was described as “low”. Paul Davies also assessed the option of reconstructing these buildings and highlighted that there would be a number of constraining issues relating to this:
• the buildings were built in many stages raising the question - which part should be reconstructed? • the opportunity to find enough detail relating to original church design would be limited • the cost of replicating detail could be prohibitive • much of the skill required to replace detailed elements has been lost or is rare [therefore cost prohibitive] • some parts could not be replicated - such as the organ • “most of this fabric [church] is too damaged for reuse” • “reconstruction...would require some compromises made” - This is perhaps more significant than the report details. If the newly reconstructed church were to become POPE compliant but using the same footprint, the capacity would almost halve - allowing for aisle widths, row centres, lobby areas, amenities, and the like. Most importantly, a reconstructed building will, as Paul Davies suggests:“reflect the character of a church from the late nineteenth century and not the current practices and style of worship”.
This document [under Barney’s Philosophy and Barney’s Brief] details how conflicting the physical parameters of their previous church were with the activities and philosophy of its parish.
“The demolition of degraded elements and replacement with a new complex that will ensure the continuing use of the site and enliven its role in the life of the local community, is a desirable conservation outcome.”[GBA]
A new building has the opportunity to pay tribute to its predecessor in a range of ways.
SITE LOCATION The original building occupied its site in a distinct way. Whilst addressing Broadway, the original church was significantly set back resulting in a substantial open space acting as a buffer between a major arterial road and a place of worship [typified by a more peaceful environment]. fjmt approached the masterplanning of the new proposal in a similar way by setting the worship space back from Broadway, but in this case, allowing the approach from Broadway to rise to the level of the worship space rather than fall away, improving the visibility of the Church from the street. Raising the proposed church floor level allows a storey to be inserted below, which interconnects directly with ground levels on Mountain St. In this way, both addresses are maintained and enhanced. The open space itself is given a greater priority as a beautifully landscaped court [rather than a carpark and turning circle] open for the majority of time to the public and offered as a permeable site for pedestrians. Siting the building in a similar way to its predecessor, also maintains something of the existing relationships with surrounding heritage buildings. The new elevations of the building highlight the datum points of the surrounding buildings creating a human streetscape scale as well as a loftier church-like elevation. The proposed elevations at the corner of St Barnabas Lane and Mountain St reflect the two storey volumes of the previous hall with higher elements set back from Mountain St.
SCALE “...the building contributes a low density scale in a higher density environment”
The site is surrounded by a range of higher density buildings. The original church provided relief from this scale and although the allowable FSR for a new development could potentially have reached 3:1, the Anglican Church chose a scheme with a much smaller ratio, in keeping with the original buildings. Whilst other competition schemes sought to maximise the area area provided by the site ratio, fjmt saw the additional space as being unnecessary to fulfil the requirements of the brief.
MATERIAL REUSE Paul Davies assessed the majority of remnant materials of the church building to be unfit for reuse. Lower levels of the vestry and hall remained predominantly intact allowing the potential reuse of some joinery and wall fabric. Whilst the reconstruction of these areas is questionable [limited heritage value], the opportunity remains to reuse some of these materials in the new building - particularly as the materials have “moderate” scientific value. An interpretive wall is the initial proposal, which will require the scale and scope of materials to be ascertained in more detail before the design is finalised.
INTERPRETIVE FEATURE WALL and ELEMENT REUSE Creating a backdrop to the open space, along the western wall adjacent to Unilodge, has been proposed as a means of focussing views into the open space and enhancing the materiality and texture of the exterior surfaces. The current proposal is to reuse masonry remnants [recommended in the Paul Davies report 7.1] as a random rubble wall and perhaps further design the wall to accommodate some level of vertical planting. The warmth and age of these materials, and random pattern, will create an exciting contrast with the smoother surfaces of the new church. Further resolution is subject to planning and costing. Other elements have been identified, such as the Bellcote, Stone Pinnacles, Memorials and Inscriptions which, subject to further investigation, have potential for interpretive reuse and display.
MESSAGE TO BROADWAY Culturally, St Barnabas has had renown for its messages to the street. This was particularly the case when the publican of the Broadway Hotel replied with humorous counter-messages from the other side of the street. The design of a signage system which can continue this heritage, and be easily adjusted, is in the process of schematic design. It is currently proposed that the signage be suspended under the canopies facing Broadway. It is hoped that the words of these messages have been recorded and can be reused in another interpretive way such as for the safety graphics required on full height glazing.
HISTORY OF ST BARNABAS A central repository of historical information could be provided within the Ministry area of the church and made available to the public - subject to a full interpretive study.
JOINERY As there are a number of doors and timber remnants available for reuse, fjmt would like to consider their suitability for reuse in joinery items or furniture.