St Mary’s Cathedral Erskineville

St Mary’s Cathedral Erskineville

Yet another Federation Arts and Crafts Style building for the blog. Designed in 1912 by J. McCarthy. It’s brick. It’s a church. Thankfully the entire thing is not dipped in paint, like a lot of Sydney’s two storey churches.

The metal bell tower looks like a witch’s hat. The entire structure kind of spreads at the the base with gradually sloping brick buttresses, so it looks reassuringly plugged into the ground.

The roof is terracotta. The windows, which are otherwise largely free from decoration, emit a blue glow that is a distinctive contrast with the brick. The painted steel fence features multiple Art Nouveau motifs. It’s an unassuming but distinctive building. Some of the features are mirrored in the school across the road (see last below).

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Some Churches, Sydney and Canberra

Some Churches, Sydney and Canberra

I see churches as “large scale sculptures that adopt the form of churches”–to borrow a phrase used by Jonathan Meades in describing the churches of Worcester. The good ones are among the best buildings in our cities. Below are a few that have recently taken my fancy.

St. Saviour’s Anglican Church, 119 Young Street, Redfern

The church sits behind the towering housing estates of Young Street. It’s a weathered red brick building in the Romanesque Revival Style with some of the sandstone trimming looking almost eaten away to nothing. Ideally it hits you by surprise. A crumbling vestige nestled amongst high rise housing and Victoria terraces.

Marble has replaced sandstone in the two ground level load bearing columns, the shine of which creates a not unpleasant contrast with weathered brick.

The building was designed by Arthur and Cyril Blackett in 1885 then rebuilt in 1910-11 after being damaged by a gale. The detailed, dichromatic brickwork features repeated curved arches proper to the style and an unkept grassy verge down the left hand side adds considerable charm.

At the back there’s a decent sized Morten Bay and an open backyard with a community garden. It doesn’t take much imaginative effort to just imagine what the building would have looked like in the park-like surroundings of the late nineteenth century.

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A Seventh-Day Adventist Church & Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Turner

This church is a motley of styles, though it just screams: roof. The massive, sloping thing occupies one wing that stretches to incorporate the comparatively diminutive original church, identifiable by the arched limestone inset. I can’t help but think of a snowfield as an appropriate setting, that snow is just going to slide right off.

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The next church is designed by Frederick Romberg. It’s an example of the Post-War Ecclesiastical Style and backs directly onto the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. The wood of the roof is visible on the underside of the awning. The base is in good part composed besser blocks. There’s a detailed write of it as part of a heritage assessment here. The spire climbs to 20.7 metres and as specified in the heritage assessment, the “exaggerated roof and wide eaves makes reference to the traditional Australian homestead.”

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Holy Cross Church, Adelaide Street Woollahra

The last is my favourite. Prominent from Syd Einfield Drive as you pass Bondi Junction. Viewing it from the ground makes you wonder what the area would have been like before the expressway and shopping development. Probably a pleasant little street. Now the cement foundations of the overpass and the skyscrapers of Bondi Junction dominate one aspect. The already cosy Federation cottages on Adelaide Street are dwarfed further by these late twentieth century additions. However, the church, due to it’s imposing verticality and abundance of brick, remains largely unaffected. Unlike the overpass it’s mass seems to catch the sky and bring it down, creating a sense of openness despite size. It’s an escape upwards. A rare example of an Art Deco church, it fits with the scatterings of exemplary brick Art Deco apartments that can be traced along Edgecliff Road, Old South Head Road, leading all the way down the sand dunes of North Bondi. It’s in fine condition and exudes the solemnity you’d hope to find in a place for meditation. It makes a forceful argument for brick as a material capable of great things. Austin Mackay designed the church and it was built in 1940. Mackay was also responsible for St Benedicts at Broadway, which is now part of Notre Dame University.

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