church conversion
renovations and additions to church building in glenlyon
completed 2004

2004 AIA award
residential alterations & extensions

"internally the architecture is kept free of the original structure, and carefully planned to frame views and allow the occupants to fully experience the original church space. the careful interventions convey that sense of custodianship rather than ownership of this historic building.

the form and materials of the new works both successfully negotiated that difficult balancing act between domestic luxury and the spiritual austerity inherent in a space such as this. the elements inserted echo and amplify the beautiful light and space of the church, without descending into a mimic of the original fabric.

the architects work is exquisite and crafted, where they have altered the building they have done so skillfully and delicately. they utilise materials and elements discarded by others, and revel in exploring new ways of assembling the components of architecture - they question the nature of things others take for granted. the architects have sought where possible to utilise the skill and craft of the local community”

- jury citation

who buys an old catholic church in the country side and asks a young architectural practice [that was us in the day!]  who they have just seen in the local paper, to undertake the process of turning this church into a home for their growing family

crazy people thats who

or l could have said barristers….. same thing
and thank god [ or insert own diety preference here ] for crazy people
does that mean l am grateful for the existence of barristers as well?

i suppose it must
actually l quite often tell anyone who will listen that barristers, lawyers, professionals of that sort make great clients

i am not jesting
barristers in particular move in a world full of the written word
they depend on it
they understand it
like architects they have their own particular vocabulary

when they are explaining the implications and context of a case to any particular client, l’m sure they often feel like they’re  in that gary larson cartoon...

> what  we say to dogs: ok ginger ! l’ve had it! stay out of the garbage! understand ginger! stay out of the garbage or else!
> what dogs hear: ....blah blah blah GINGER  blah blah blah blah blah GINGER blah blah blah...

to that end they understand that there must be an element of trust placed in them, by their client, to use all their skills and learned knowledge to create the best outcome for that client
in other words…. to keep them out of jail
they also know that it is for the client to properly investigate and make a considered decision in choosing their professional
there is a bit of an unspoken code that if a barrister's architect does not perform, then it implies that the barrister in question had not been thorough in their assessment of the potential architectural candidates

to save face would one therefore not sue their architect as it would reflect badly upon said barrister, solicitor lawyer judge…. whomever
well i wouldn’t go that far
i do know that in order to get this job we had a whole arch lever stuffed with communication back and forward between the parties before we were engaged
you can get quite a lot of correspondence into an arch lever

sioux at one point did get a bit week at the knees
what with such an endless barrage of questions, instructions, fee negotiations, lists of what our performance criteria should be, what timelines we would work to, what liability we would be subject to, and worst of all….. bullet points
barristers just love bullet points
can’t get enough of them
so many bullet points its hard to see the point of them all

but l just felt that this project had the ability to shine
and besides this was just barrister banter
a form of waltz
or as nick cave might pen…. shifting the furniture around
can you make it to the end still standing

well we did

l do recall a lovely moment, many flights up in a collins street scraper
we were well into the project by then
we had used two very simple vertical forms to housing kids bedrooms and bathrooms vertically stacked towers, tardis like appearing in the center of this 1860’s catholic church

the clients had been keenly interested in what we were planning to clad these very prominent structures in
so this afternoon we had come to walk them through what we were thinking

one tower we planned to clad in a plaster mould we had purpose designed for the bedroom tower
the area our church was located within had a rich history of richly ornate plastered ceilings from the gold rush era
we had located a plasterer close to site who was keen to be part of this undertaking
this very gothic yet classical look met with much satisfaction from our clients
it was historic and detailed in its touch
it had gravitas and ceremony and as such was well received
gold star for you!

then to the other pod
sioux just held up a reasonably sized sample of flourescent green acrylic
she didn’t really say much… just kind of held it up there for all to see
our male client just broke into a roar of laughter which continued for quite a while
until he realised that we were serious and laughed even harder

he ended with something along the lines of…. you know if it doesn’t work we’ll sue you sioux

that moment for us that was pivotal
they were stepping up to the plate
they were going way beyond their comfort zone
they were placing their trust in us
their chosen professionals
they were allowing us to create architecture
and that is why we are called architects

there was a whole raft of reasons and connections as to why we chose the green acrylic which l won’t go into
but ultimately…. it worked in the space
it brought an element of magic

the building's interior and the associated landscape both aim at celebrating the sanctity of space. As a design-based practice, we are very interested in the way architecture creates a sense of place and how interior architecture can reinterpret the role of existing built fabric
so that nothing is lost by the process of conversion, the embodied energy and memory of the existing fabric is used to invigorate the new use. we have tried to convey a sense of custodianship. we hoped that the elements inserted echo and amplify the beautiful light and space of the church, without descending into mimicry of the original fabric

we went on to do very well with this project
we won architectural and design awards, money, high end cooking appliances, even a bang and olufsen multi cd stacker!
it was published in magazine and books all over this planet of ours
l remember thinking...  that’s it... we’ll probably be designing church conversions for the rest of our lives!

never done one since

so if you happen to have a beautiful old church you wish to work with... you know where to find us

special thanks to daylesford engineering

project team
sioux clark
tim o’sullivan
sonal dave
kim roberts
mel ogden (landscape artist)

structural engineer

treeplaces australia

emma cross