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St Mary’s Chapel

Hamilton East, Hamilton

The Chapel of St Mary’s Convent is a heritage listed chapel dating from 1926. Formerly part of a larger convent complex, the chapel underwent a significant seismic upgrade and restoration following the demolition of the surrounding buildings. The success of the project lies in the fact that the seismic strengthening work is cleverly concealed, with the chapel looking much the way it did back in 1926.

Completed 2018

NZIA Waikato Bay of Plenty 2020 Architecture Award - Heritage

Constructed for the Sisters of De Notre Dame des Missions on the Hamilton East site in 1926, the Chapel of St Mary's Convent was designed by locally born architect John E Chitty. The chapel is identified as a building of heritage significance, both by Hamilton City Council and Heritage NZ. The goal of the conservation project for the St Mary’s Restoration Trust was to preserve the architectural integrity of the building, by keeping the modern structural strengthening intervention (designed by Gray Consulting Engineers) as discreet as possible.

The chapel is located in the convent grounds and was connected to the 1939 Euphrasie House, which was closed in 2011 and demolished in 2017. Both Euphrasie House and the chapel were identified as requiring structural strengthening in the period following the Christchurch earthquakes. The chapel has been seismically upgraded to 100% of the New Build Standard. The trust also took the opportunity to undertake conservation works and upgrades to improve functionality of the church.

PAUA Architects was engaged by the trust to assist with strengthening and upgrade works, using its heritage expertise to minimise the visibility of the modern interventions. The project was led by Bob Peacocke, and contract works undertaken by Lobell Building. Large portions of the external brickwork were removed so that a new concrete structure could be constructed in their place. New brickwork (brick slips) has been constructed, concealing the new concrete structure within the wall. The success of the project lies in the fact that the significant structural intervention has been concealed, it is invisible inside and outside. Original subfloor vents had to be replaced with a new mechanical ducted system, so a mould was made of the original vent grates from which new castings were created and re-positioned in the original locations.

The restoration included the design of a new accessibility ramp and detailing of the new hand-forged steel hand rail, and new planters and hard landscaping around the base and entrance of the building. A new gate was installed in front of the chapel, as a replica of the gate that stood in front of Euphrasie House. The inscription above the gateway reads ‘Institute de Notre Dame des Missions’. A statue of St Mary (from the demolished Euphrasie House) was installed in an existing niche in the south wall. This, along with the addition of LED spotlights to the stained glass rose windows, have enhanced the building's street presence and highlighted the architectural beauty of this beautiful heritage asset.

NZIA Waikato Bay of Plenty 2020 Awards - Heritage Category

Jury Citation

Intervention and renovation have given new life to the chapel of St Mary’s Convent Chapel, designed in 1926 by Hamilton architect Jack Chitty. This small but important church was threatened with demolition; instead, it has been extensively strengthened and upgraded. The necessarily invasive work was completely concealed through the realisation of clever material choices. New facilities such as a ramp and entry gate were seamlessly integrated into the original structure, using reclaimed materials where possible. It is heartening to see our built heritage retained and restored with such care.


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