Wanaka Catholic Church

Wanaka Catholic Church

SSA Ltd Office as Architects

A modern day church is a demanding assignment for an architect. Designing “a place of spirituality” as a modern style building, which must perform functions whose roots and traditions are in the past is an extremely difficult brief for any designer. Site The site is located in Wanaka set on a suburban island surrounded by a broad and immediate panorama of the NZ Southern Alps. History In May 2009, the Catholic Upper Clutha Parish ran a competition for the design of their new church in Wanaka, inviting architects from all over the South Island. The design presented by local firm Sarah Scott Architects Ltd obtained unanimous approval from the parish committee. A spokesman for the committee said “…its simplicity yet distinctive lines make it a very complimentary building beside the Holy Family School…” Design Origins The building’s organic form alludes to the mountains that surround it. Solid walls of masonry dressed in simple plaster sweep from the entry, widening to embrace the congregation before curving inwards and focusing on the semi circular apse containing the altar. The floating leaf form of the roof inclined towards the altar rises skyward further emphasizing attention in this direction. The interior is illuminated by natural lighting that enters through a narrow glazed clerestory ribbon that widens as it progresses towards the sanctuary subtly shifting angles to emphasise focus towards the altar. The ribbon windows offer the faithful a view of the surrounding mountains. The landscape and its changing moods are quietly present as a living backdrop to the service.


“The finished building reflects the high level of workmanship evident from all contractors who were involved in this project. Attention to detail, from the polished stone fonts to the purpose designed altar furniture lovingly crafted by the local parish, has resulted in a building that embodies the level of commitment from the many teams that bought this project to fruition. A great working relationship between client and architect has resulted in a flagship church for the 21st century.”

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