The evolution of religious architecture has been widely noted. Gone are the days of new buildings being designed in the stereotypically ornate and extravagant fashion of Christian church architecture, like the Romanesque abbey churches, Gothic cathedrals or the opulence of traditional Jewish temples. In place of that extravagance is an architectural form that emphasizes simplicity and natural light while stepping away from the inclusion of overwhelming religious icons.
It would seem that religious architecture is ever-transforming and evolving to meet more modern means.
The Dapto Anglican Church is not at all what one would call ‘traditional religious architecture’. The 1,155 square metre building could easily pass for a convention centre or concert hall, with its square white front, black sides and dramatically lit entrance.
Architectural firm Silvester Fuller, the husband-wife design duo of Jad Silvester and Penny Fuller, won the chance to develop the highly sought after tender after refusing to put forward a design concept until they fully understood the function and focus of the church itself and its practitioners.
”We needed to know a lot more about them before we could give them a concept,” says Fuller. ”How they work, how they think, what they might need.”
They came to the understand that the church was less focused on religious adulation than on promoting community spirit, giving the architects a chance to what they call ‘design a contemporary reinterpretation of the traditional church’ that is ‘no longer a place devoted solely to Sunday services.’
This is reflected in the building’s modernity, subtlety and complete lack of religious symbols. The Australian Institute of Architecture’s NSW chapter president Matthew Pullinger called the development ‘a clear and confident piece’ upon it’s awarding of the Blacket Prize for regional architecture in addition to also gaining an award for state public design.
The building itself shows how religious architecture is evolving to bring a community element back into its design.
“The church historically was a very important part of any village and a meeting place,” says Fuller. “I think churches have lost some of that connection.”
The goal for designers of these modern buildings will now be to reconnect with that lineage of community, bringing these spaces into the modern realm for a far more modern parishioner. This is clearly the route that modern religious design is going, to the delight of many in the industry who recognise the significance or aesthetically pleasing, functional, community spaces.