Church rises from the ashes

BLACK Saturday, the name of one of Victoria’s most devastating bush fires, left a scar on minds, as well as on the landscape.

BLACK Saturday, the name of one of Victoria’s most devastating bush fires, left a scar on minds, as well as on the landscape. But out of the ashes, homes and community buildings are slowly appearing. A Catholic church, in Kinglake, is one of such structures to emerge from the devastation.

Designed by KUD Architects, the Kinglake church started with a call from architect Billy Kavellaris, director of the practice, to ABC Radio. ‘‘I contacted the station to donate my services to rebuild the church. After a moment, I found myself on air and accepted the brief,’’ said Mr Kavellaris.

KUD’s brief was to design a church that engaged a new generation, the youth, as well as the wider community.

Obviously, robust materials were required, given that two previous churches, one from the 1920s, and another from the 1970s, were destroyed. ‘‘The first church was timber, the second was brick. This one had to withstand extreme conditions,’’ said Mr Kavellaris.

While KUD Architects were mindful of the landscape, with rolling hills and distant views, they wanted to create a contemporary building for parishioners, as well as for use by the broader community for gatherings and functions.

An oversized crucifix, which appears in the concrete facade, clearly articulates the building’s primary function. The crucifix, which is back-lit at night, also acts as a beacon for those entering the Kinglake community.

Unlike many old churches, which are monumental and internalised, the Kinglake church was designed to capture distant views.

Three interlocking components, all clad in steel, in silver, black and a deep red, correlate to the Catholic teachings of ‘‘the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit’’.

The three different volumes also set up individual spatial experiences. ‘‘We wanted to draw in eastern light into the church, particularly for morning prayers,’’ said Mr Kavellaris, pointing out the angled oak-lined ceiling with pop-out celestial windows. ‘‘These windows [motorised] also purge hot air during the warmer months,’’ he added.

Although there is generous glazing in the church, both in the crucifix and floor-to-ceiling windows, each has been carefully considered to create privacy, while still providing diffused natural light. The glass in the crucifix, for example, features a pixilated image of Jesus, while the glass on the side elevations is mirrored. To appeal to a younger audience, the windows also reference the 1960s, a period of social change and enlightenment.

As well as the chapel, there is an elongated space dissecting the two other forms. This space is used by children who can’t quite make it through an entire service. The same space is also used for Sunday school, as well as for community activities. ‘‘This space is quite flexible, but we wanted to provide a similar transparency,’’ said Mr Kavellaris.

One of the most sentimental elements in the design is the tabernacle, made from bricks of the previous church. As evocative is the crucifix at the entrance to the carpark. Made of timber from the original fence, it’s a reminder of past tragedies. ‘‘We didn’t want to just create a series of geometric forms. The design is as much about the past as it is about the future of Kinglake,’’ added Mr Kavellaris.

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