Hundreds of delicate pendant lights and a luscious colour scheme have brought beauty and wonder to the interior of an historic chapel in Sydney.
Material conservation and the interpretation of the interior through light and colour were central to the restoration of the interior of St Vincent’s Chapel.
The chapel is the place of worship for the Order of the Sisters o f Charity, the first female religious order in Australia, and for school girls boarding at St Vincent’s College.
Built in 1899‐1902, to the design of S. B. Polin and Denas V. Healy, this large neo Gothic Chapel had major problems with its plasterwork ‐ all the interior wall plaster was peeling away.
It was technically challenging to uncover the cause of the problem. Materials testing and specialist in put revealed that there was a congenital problem with the original application of the plaster that had been exacerbated by layers of paint and previous repairs.
The problems varied in scale throughout the building and therefore required different repair approaches in different parts of the building. In some areas all paint layers were removed, while other sections required major replastering as well, using traditional lime and hair plaster.
Once the plaster had been repaired, the walls were repainted. Based on one of the historic colour schemes, a monochromatic cream colour scheme in three shades was devised to interpret the strong architecture. The variation in colour highlights different aspects of the design.
Hector Abrahams also created a new lighting design. Rather than an in‐depth theoretical lighting study the new lighting scheme was developed by using trials. To counter the heavy architecture, lots of tiny, delicate pendant lights were hung throughout the space bringing intimacy and sparkle. The light fittings themselves were inexpensive and are easy to maintain.
Important artworks including the marble statues were conserved.
A thorough understanding of the material s technology of old buildings is essential to ensure the continued usability of our unique heritage. Projects such as this ensure our knowledge of traditional construction and repairs is maintained.
Good science, sound craftsmanship, and an elegant colour and light scheme, has brought alive a splendid worship space.