Catherine McAuley Chapel
The Catholic Diocese of Maitland Newcastle envisaged that upon completion the site would become a Catholic precinct which welcomed and would become a valuable asset to, the local community. The ideas for the Chapel were developed via Early-stage consultation which involved Webber liaising with stakeholder groups including the Bishop, Catholic Schools Office, Diocese of Maitland Newcastle, Parish, the Woromi Local Aboriginal Land Council, local feeder schools and parent representatives, managing expectations of user groups.
The clarity and boldness of the design concept has been developed as a representation of the ongoing strength the church gives so many members of its faith; the directness of form, structure and materials have been developed devoid of any religious motif and the inventive use of textures and finishes have delivered transparency where possible to be integrated within the surroundings of the site. The raw honest materials used reinforce these ideas.
The design aims to engage the people on the site in the natural ecology surrounding the site and the built forms introduced to the site. The landscape design undertaken by Moir Landscape Architecture sets out a variety of external spaces providing diverse learning opportunities for students of differing ages and interests.
The Chapel itself has a dramatic cantilever defining the entry, which creates amenity for people gathering to enter. The, is reconstituted timber soffit of the awning space represents the surrounding landscape context and relates to the timber battens on an adjacent building, this then bleeds to the interior acoustic plasterboard ceiling. The external material palette is stripped back of all other colour, with the scheme verging on an industrial aesthetic to create an atmosphere fostering its use for both religious and school services.
Rather than creating a standalone iconic object, the chapel provides a hybrid between a religious and community space, fitting within its context and stitching the site together to create an integrated catholic community. The transparency of the Chapel enables visual links and an oversight to the school to allow integration with the functioning of the school.
The congregation in the main form of the building is linked to external spaces through corner windows and entrance. This simple square form is complemented by the strength of the structure which then holds the roof above highlight windows which then allow controlled daylight into the Chapel. The drama of the Chapel plays out in the transition between the foyer’s lower scale and the larger main congregation space. Interior spaces are simply detailed, with a richness in subtle changes in materials and rhythmic facets to walls and ceilings.