Location: Moombara Street, Dapto NSW
Owner: Anglican Parish of Dapto & Anglican Church Property Trust
Builder: Premier Building Group
Structural Engineer: Simpson Design Associates
Architect: Silvester Fuller
Photographer: Martin van der Wal
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The new Anglican Church Auditorium in Dapto is located between two centres of secular worship: the Mall and the Dapto Showground, known to greyhound racing fans across Australia as the home of the “Dapto Dogs.”
Reflecting the changing requirements and opportunities of a contemporary church, the auditorium is not devoted solely to Sunday worship; it supports a range of events seven days a week, catering to the wider local community, thus providing a hybrid of religious and community space.
The auditorium is located between two existing buildings, St Luke’s Pre-school and a church hall, and its function complements the 1903 St Luke’s church in nearby Brownsville by providing seating and facilities for worship and events up to 500 people.
The architects, Silvester Fuller, took the bold step of building over an internal road and reorganising onsite parking.The auditorium’s location, at the hub of the three-building complex, defined its shape and created a campus meeting place that also allows access to the secondary buildings. Once the building perimeter was defined, the circulation spaces were “carved” out of this primary mass, informed by the flow of people from the car park, into and through the building.
Colour and texture are used effectively to delineate between this primary mass and the voids that have been subtracted from it.The latter have bright, smooth, crisp surface finishes that stand in stark contrast to the dark, earthy, rough textures of the former.This is particularly evident in the dramatic, facetted entry that draws visitors into the central foyer.
Once inside, darkened portals lead into the main theatre space and beyond to crying rooms, toilets, storage, kitchen and a cafe, reinforcing the auditorium’s community role. The black upholstered seating in the cavernous auditorium wraps intimately around the curved stage.There is little in this unadorned, monochromatic space – not even a right angle – to distract the eye from the central performance.
The building is constructed of precast concrete panels supporting steel trusses and a single pitch roof. Penny Fuller cheerfully acknowledges that the building structure is “basically like an industrial shed.The use of precast concrete panels was an economical and efficient way of achieving the large spaces required on a tight budget.”
She visited Austral Precast’s Wetherill Park NSW plant with her client, Rev. Stephen Semenchuk, Dapto Anglican’s senior minister, and his team. As mentioned, Silvester Fuller was keen to implement a highly-textured surface in the primary mass but the tight budget did not allow for this to be achieved with custom form liners. In the end they decided to simply forgo the final steel trowel finish for these panels, leaving a random, roughly textured, exposed surface that was painted on site.
This was the first time Silvester Fuller has worked with Austral Precast.“We have, of course, made use of Austral’s bricks on numerous occasions previously” says Fuller. She was effusive in her praise of Austral Precast. “They were really wonderful, accommodating and very generous with their time to help us find a solution to achieve the texture which we were seeking.They were good to work with and did a really great job on this project.”
The Dapto Anglican Church Auditorium was one of the first major commissions for Silvester Fuller since returning to Australia after working for such architectural luminaries as Herzog & de Meuron, Foster + Partners and the Renzo Piano Building Workshop.
Their work, and the confidence of their client, was rewarded in July 2012 when the project was awarded the Blacket Prize for RegionalArchitecture, named after 19th century architect Edmund Blacket who designed Sydney University, St Andrew’s Cathedral and a host of other Anglican buildings.
The jury commended Silvester Fuller’s “contemporary, confident, bare and unexpected” architecture as presenting an “uncompromising approach that has been embraced by this regional community.”The project also received an Architecture Award for Public Architecture and Penny Fuller was named the AIA NSW’s 2012 Emerging Architect.
Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, architectural critic Elizabeth Farrelly admired Silvester Fuller’s “capacity to take a sow’s ear of a brief – the suburban big-box church – and make from it a genuine silk purse.”
Amen to that.
PRECAST CONCRETE PANELS
Austral Precast is Australia’s largest manufacturer of precast concrete panels, a cost-effective solution for the industrial, commercial and residential markets. The company has manufacturing facilities in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia.
Colour: Grey, ready for finishing