The Conversation

  • Written by Lisa Marie Daunt, PhD Candidate in Architecture, The University of Queensland

In the post-war decades, Australian communities invested heavily in church buildings. Like civic centres, swimming pools and shire halls, these buildings made an important contribution to the formation of a modern civic realm in Australia’s growing cities, suburbs and regional communities. Today, dwindling numbers of constituents and the amalgamation of congregations place many post-war church buildings at risk.

And yet – unlike their publicly funded counterparts – these buildings are largely ignored in architectural and heritage discussions. Few church buildings have any form of heritage protection. Could this be because this is an “uneasy heritage”?

Given current crises affecting the churches in Australia, and given the important role of these buildings in the post-war development of our cities, suburbs and towns, a public debate is necessary about their future. Should we allow these buildings to disappear from memory, or should they be preserved and/or repurposed?

For the whole of Australia only about 30 post-war ecclesiastical buildings are included on state heritage registers. It’s a meagre number, given that several thousand churches were built across the country during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

In Queensland alone, over 1,000 were built between 1945 and 1975. Of these, only six are on the Queensland Heritage Register.

The author presents Communities of faith: Modern church architecture in Queensland 1950-1980. Australia’s modern church buildings are disappearing St Andrews Presbyterian Church (c.1960, architect: Loder and Dunphy) in Gosford, New South Wales, was demolished in 2002. Cross-Section, no. 95, Sept 1960, Author provided

In immediate post-war years, modern church building in Australia made a hesitant start. A few small, rather conventional buildings cropped up here and there.

In the 1950s, however, hesitation gave way to optimism and resulted in increasing experimentation in church design. By the 1960s a genuine modern church building boom was under way.

Religious institutions strongly supported the Australian government’s bid to build a modern social welfare state. They not only built community-oriented churches, but also kindergartens, halls, primary and secondary schools, charity outreach centres, hospitals, etc.

From the 1960s churches and their architects increasingly recognised the need to rethink ecclesiastical architecture to cater to (rather than ignore or shun) modern society. This aggiornamento, or bringing up to date, in the religious sphere coincided with architects’ experiments with modern materials and construction technologies and innovative shapes and forms.

As a result, a new “type” of church emerged. This was one more attuned to its (commonly) residential surroundings and more sensitive to its context, both in terms of materiality and scale.

Examples abound, but of note are:

  • Kenmore Presbyterian Church by Robin Gibson (c.1968, Queensland), now Uniting Church
Australia’s modern church buildings are disappearing Kenmore Presbyterian Church (c.1968, architect Robin Gibson) in Brisbane, Queensland. Lisa Marie Daunt (2000), Author provided Australia’s modern church buildings are disappearing St Christopher’s Catholic Church (c.1968, architect: Paul Wallace) in Anglesea, Victoria. Cross-Section no.188, June 1968, Author provided
  • St Anne’s Church of England by Hely Bell & Horne (c.1965, Como, NSW), which was repurposed in 1997 as a private residence along with its Sunday school building of the same age

  • St Christopher’s Catholic Church by Paul Wallace (c.1968, Anglesea, Victoria), which was damaged in the 1983 bushfires and rebuilt in 1984 to a revised design.

These smaller, contextually sensitive churches that reflect the aggiornamento in the church represent the bulk of post-war modern church buildings in Australia. However, state heritage registers are mostly populated by their more “monumental” siblings.

Australia’s modern church buildings are disappearing Holy Trinity National Memorial Finnish Lutheran Church (c.1961, architect: Frederick Romberg of Grounds, Romberg and Boyd) in Turner, Canberra, is on the ACT Heritage Register. Lisa Marie Daunt (2016)

For example, on the ACT register is Grounds, Romberg and Boyd’s 1961 Finnish Lutheran Church. Queensland’s register includes Cairns Cathedral, two churches by Eddie Oribin and a church and school chapel by Karl Langer (listings 601961, 60233, 601589, 602815 and 602816).

And yet it is the smaller, unassuming churches that made the greatest contribution to the formation of our post-war collective realm. More importantly, it is these churches that are under the greatest threat.

So, what is to be done? Is this part of our modern heritage best forgotten, along with the (at times) painful memories it evokes? Or can there be a future for Australia’s unassuming post-war modern buildings that were once the beating hearts of Australia’s urban and suburban communities?

Australia’s modern church buildings are disappearing St Monica’s War Memorial Cathedral (c.1968, architect: A. Ian Ferrier) in Cairns is on the Queensland Heritage Register. Ferrier Slide Collection, used with permission, Author provided

Authors: Lisa Marie Daunt, PhD Candidate in Architecture, The University of Queensland

Read more http://theconversation.com/uneasy-heritage-australias-modern-church-buildings-are-disappearing-94115


Union demands paint a bleak future under Shorten

It’s time for Bill Shorten to come clean and rule out extreme changes to Australia’s industrial relations laws that would wind the clock back to the strike-torn Whitlam era.   As the ACTU prepares...

Doorstop at AKD Sawmill with Trevor Ruthenberg, LNP Candidate for Longman

MR TREVOR RUTHENBERG, LNP CANDIDATE FOR LONGMAN: Well morning folks. Welcome to Caboolture, welcome to Longman. This is a fantastic day for local jobs. This is a fantastic day for our community. ...

Australia’s resource and energy export figures are on track to set a new record

Resources and energy exports setting NEW records   Australia’s resource and energy export figures are on track to set a new record of $226 billion in 2017–18 – and go even higher this year – accor...

Business News

Top Tips if You’re Thinking About Quitting Your Day Job and Starting a Small Business

Are you fed up with working for another person and long to be your own boss? Do you think you’d like to take over a local business that’s up for sale? Would you like to make your hobby into somethin...

What is the best structure to use when starting up a business

Coco Hou, tax specialist and accountant, has shared her advice for people who are starting up their own businesses, setting up side gigs, or moving into consultancy work. The start of the new financ...

Leading Employment Firm in WA 2018

Only a certain few start their careers as the boss. For most of us, we get employed by companies and in most cases, we never really find the need to hire employment lawyers. But if we do, hiring an ...


Adina Apartment Hotel Brisbane

TFE Hotels has opened the doors of the spectacular new Adina Apartment Hotel Brisbane, which offers stunning views over the Brisbane River and awe-inspiring interiors that transport guests back to t...

Winter In Rotorua: Things To Do

While many travelers consider the summer months to be the prime traveling season, there are thousands and thousands of travelers who love to take to their campervan hire australia journeys when the ...

Discover Hong Kong Your Way With Ecruising

From July – November 2018, Ecruising in partnership with Hong Kong Tourism and Royal Caribbean, including Azamara and Celebrity Cruises are offering travellers new and exclusive cruising itinerari...

You might also like