Arising from the ashes of a devastating fire, this new church precinct cuts a powerful image in its context. Designed to accommodate a congregation of 3500, its auditorium, chapel and teaching spaces amalgamate to form a single church complex.
The loss of the well-known church providing services to more than 5 500 congregants and food and care to the informal settlement in the valley below, was a devastating blow to the community. With very strong emotional ties to the original domed form built in the early 1990’s and named the 'Jesus Dome’, our clients insisted on the replacement of the dome, to retain and reinforce the original quality of the church as the primary landmark in the Mayville urban landscape. A simple replacement of the original dome was not an architecturally sound idea with inherent impediments both spatially and acoustically. The challenge was then set to amalgamate the idea of dome with an acoustically superb auditorium served by a multitude of related spaces.
Extensive architectural and engineering studies to support an economical long span roof over an 3 500 seater auditorium yielded a solution where three connecting arches that are effectively 'slivers' of a sphere, suspends an enclosure over an acoustically planned auditorium. In a simple way, this solution then delivers the two primary goals of the design demand : an iconic 'virtual dome' and a church space with excellent acoustic properties for worship music and the spoken word. The auditorium as the core space, is variously enveloped by the entrance, foyer, a small traditional chapel for baptisms, weddings and memorial services, upper level teaching spaces, performance and technical service functions.
The visual strength of the virtual ‘dome' structure is an iconic urban feature being perceived at many scales : dominantly at distance and at speed from the adjacent highway, sculpturally from the street accessing the complex and legibly announcing entrance for pedestrian congregants approaching the church. This powerful architectural element is counterpointed by a series of simple forms of enclosure which respond transparently or solidly to various interfacing outdoor spaces. The application of the veiled screen to glazed and other enclosures, delivers a fine grained scale externally and juxtaposes the overt dominance of the arches.
DCC serves a less than privileged community unlike many charismatic churches who thrive in wealthy societies. The severe limitations in budget and finance consistently impacted this project, halting construction for some months during its development journey and these constraints meant considerable resourcefulness in bringing this church to reality. The combination of strong pastoral leadership, an incredibly vibrant community and the meaningfulness found within the intimacy of their personal faith, served us well as architects. Materials, finishes and services are thus treated as raw and stripped down to their bare state wherever possible to create a thoroughly honest and authentic quality. The interiors particularly evidence these ideas and are supplemented with the incorporation of some saved elements from the church fire yielding an overall quality which is spare, yet warm, authentic and inviting.
Technically the building embodies significant creativity. The limited footprint auditorium was entirely acoustically derived in consultation with a talented acoustic engineer and incorporates complex diffusion and bespoke absorption panels to achieve an acoustically accurate space. The real innovation however, vests in the auditorium's roof structure where an intensely collaborative design process demystified complex engineering geometry and unconventional construction methodologies execution to deliver this building. The elegant steel arches, sprung off massive concrete anchors patently celebrate the memory of the Jesus Dome and have eclipsed the original Jesus Dome landmark to become a new urban icon. This technical achievement has been recognised by the steel industry for the ingenuity and innovation in the use of steel to produce this unique project.
The DCC project won the following categories in the SAISC Steel Awards 2019 whilst still under construction: • Innovation award • People's Choice Award • Overall Winner of the National Steel Awards