Our Lady of Good Counsel Church – Refurbishment and New Addition

  • 2018

  • Architectural
    Interior Design

Designed By:

Designed In:


The Church was constructed in the mid-1950s, repeatedly rearranged and needing re-vitalisation. A contemplative program evolved the vision with the client and then artists. The result is a radical transformation of the worship spaces to fulfill their sacred intent and the addition of a modern gathering space.

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  • While a Church might be a place of awe and beauty, the Architect's challenge was to temper the effect of the grand upon the intimate and personal experience of the liturgy. It was also to balance renewal with a respect for the past - to preserve much of the familiar and comforting whilst creating an uplifting environment that re-engages parishioners. This revitalization builds on the strengths of the building - its wonderful proportions, soaring copper ceiling and its simplicity. The brief was not to restore the church to its original condition, but to renew it for the next 50 years of service.

  • The solution is many small, subtle interventions, paring back many items participating in the space to quieten the internal 'noise', harmonise the elements of worship and let the existing building breathe. A number of original ancillary rooms were removed, allowing for a Gathering Space that then links the Church to the School, bringing light and presence into the nave of the Church. The intersection of the existing Church and new Gathering Space is treated as a new layer in the history of the church, and is celebrated with copper clad 'portals' which both reveal and frame the modified brick openings.

  • The layout now acknowledges the multiple entries, and an undulating form for the sanctuary softens the boundary between priest and parishioner whilst strengthening the many focal points of the liturgy. The overarching bent-wood screen, by artist Matt Harding, creates a permeable division between large and small areas of worship. In collaboration with Matt, the new suite of liturgical furniture counterpoints the sculpted lightness of the timber pieces with the rough-hewn bluestone of altar and font. The whole sits harmoniously within the warmth of the existing brickwork and copper surrounds. The distinct Gathering Space offers a sense of emergence after mass.

  • The existing building posed many additional practical challenges, including inadequate lighting, heating and audio visual capacity. In keeping with the desire to minimise visual noise, a new underfloor heating system and multiple mode lighting was installed whilst wiring was subtly concealed within existing face brick cavities. Project costs were contained by designing minimal new additions to the Church and maximising the capacity and variety of use of the existing and new spaces. The sustainabity dimension of this was served by the re-use of existing elements and minimisation of waste, including existing stained glass windows & doors, brickwork and copper features.