In 2005, the building committee of the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary commissioned PAUA Architects to work with them and the diocesan college of priests to design a major extension to the existing cathedral - originally built in 1975 as St Mary’s Church.
Issues to address were identified as:
- A requirement for functional flexibility to host a variety of religious services and numbers of people; from smaller masses to alternatively, a full congregation at times such as Easter and Christmas.
- A narthex lobby suitable to accommodate a large proportion of the congregation, as - owing to the small dark lobby that existed - everyone went straight home after services.
- A desire for natural light in areas, and enhanced acoustic treatment, including the minimisation of sound intrusion.
- Connection with the location, as - as built, an imposing brick wall separated the Cathedral from the streetscape and community, despite prominent location.
The key areas of design focus included enhancing the cathedral’s street presence in the Hamilton East landscape, accentuating the light and loft over the alter, crucifix sculpture and sanctuary, creating a welcoming, generous, and light-filled narthex lobby, the provision of flexible spatial adjustability, and all within an architecture that responded to the qualities and intentions of the previous cathedral design.
"Paua listened closely to the briefings delivered. Some of these were often contradicting, but the practice’s thorough and open consultation removed the anomalies brought about as varying advice was given them." - Bishop Denis Browne
A wide, welcoming stairway from the Cathedral now connects down to the street. Large sculptural concrete slabs are decorated with a different cross pattern each symbolising the five areas of the local diocese, while serving practically as acoustic barriers.
NZIA Waikato Bay of Plenty Architecture Award 2009 : Public Architecture
“This striking redevelopment of the Cathedral retains the integrity and dramatic features of the original building and meets the increasingly diverse needs of its contemporary community. Strong vertical elements in the design preserve both traditional symbolism and a sense of space and grandeur that is uplifting to the spirit. Clever use of the building’s elevated site and of the projecting entrance portico further emphasise the impression of height, ensuring that this remains one of Hamilton’s landmark buildings.”