The Saint John Paul II Building is a landmark project for the Australian Catholic University Banyo campus. The siting and planning of the building and associated landscape was the key element within the campus masterplan to define the campus heart and for the enhancement of campus identity.
The conceptual framework adopted resonated with a strong sense of continuity and constancy, enriched by the heritage and history of the previous Pius XII Provincial Seminary. The image of the heritage building reflected in the glass facade of JPII building heightens the community’s awareness of the significance of the heritage of the site.
The building, designed in a cruciform plan, is defined by three axes: central, longitudinal and vertical. The central axis sets the symmetry of the building to pay homage to the existing heritage building. The longitudinal axis provides the organisational discipline for the building. The vertical axis symbolically connects man with the sky.
The inclusive approach the design team and client lead to the creation of a community court, an ode to its historical past. The community court creates and evokes the ambience of the ‘Cloister’ and the formality of the ‘Great Court’. The permeability of the design facilitates activities and contributes to the vitality of the place. A series of spaces were designed for learning innovation, research and student engagement. The themes of journey and interest are interwoven through these spaces and the planting selection of biblical plants in the chapel surrounds drives this messaging.
The existing ‘forecourt’ area of St Paul’s Theological College became theSaint Francis Garden to provide a connection to the Saint John Paul II Building. It also visually encloses the SW edge of the Community Court. The concept adopts the discipline of the Sacred Garden, a locus for meditation and reflection. Saint Francis Garden is square in form, divided into four parts by paths that form a cross at their point of intersection. The existing Poinciana tree, in one of the four quarters is used to symbolise the tree of knowledge and the wood of the cross. The other three squares have a circular bed of the Francis rose (white), to commemorate each of the three Franciscan Sisters who came to the Pius XII Seminary in 1941. Other plants also bear allegorical meanings to symbolise an inclusive sanctuary for all.
The building, with its contrasting contemporary vocabulary, is a centrepiece on campus for learning innovation, research and student engagement. The permeability of the base facilitates student support activities and contributes to the vitality of the place. The community court and Saint Francis garden have become a locus for learning, meditation, inspiration and reflection. The landscape has created a community hub, allowing students and staff to experience the spirituality and history of the site. Overall the landscape demonstrates the importance of place and refined connectivity.
Most recently the Saint John Paul Building and surrounding landscapes was the Merit Award Recipient of the Excellence in Architecture Award from the world leading Society of Colleges and University Planning in Association of the American Institute of Architects, following a string of local, regional and national construction awards last year.