South pacific architecture captures the qualities of the Tuvalu culture

The brief to Architect Megan Rule, South Pacific Architecture, was to design a place of worship that captured the qualities of the community and South Pacific culture of the Tuvalu Christian community.

The traditional churches in the Tuvalu Islands are designed to cope with a hot humid climate which featured shaded refuge, open light transparent sides, and heavy colonial arched styles that allow natural ventilation. It was within this context and these influences the notion of separate roof and walls, with many junctions, gave way to a simple continuous curved roof that falls from the ridge line to almost touch the ground.

The Tuvalu Christian community was established in West Auckland in 1992 with a growing congregation of family with strong participation from children and youth. The church captures the qualities of the community with a sense of welcome that utilizes building methods, materials, including woven mats and floral steamers to enhance the sense of belonging. Young children often sit on mats at the front of the congregation or participate in child / parent services that precede the main service. The church's objective is to enhance the relationship between the family and church in a familiar and comfortable environment. This co-operation was evident as many Church members provided assistance and skills with carpentry, paint finishing and scaffold deinstallation during the build.

The new church and joining annex building were to complement the hall that had served as an interim church since 2001. The church auditorium was to operate independently for Sundays with weddings, family functions and sermons. The existing hall was situated on the southern half of a relatively flat, double site with partially sealed and graveled car parking over the remainder of site.

The generous height control on the site’s industrial zone allowed the church to evolve, from the more typical industrial box, into a tall softly curved form that provokes dialogue with its utilitarian context, offering an outreach beacon amongst a wider urban fabric.

An initial design compliance challenge for parking arose and was resolved by eliminating a basement car park, by identifying convenient access to public transport and shared parking. This significantly saved building costs and resource use.

The building is reviewed against petal performance imperatives. Key sustainable features include:

•    Brownfield site regeneration with walkable proximity to public transport reducing car parking

•    Local sourced timber for the structure, cladding and finishing materials

•    Efficient recyclable modular, off site prefabricated design for fast construction and minimal waste

•    Building components are salvaged and adapted, affordable and enduring

•    Above standard building envelope thermal performance to reduce energy use

•    Natural lighting and ventilation

•    Unique and personal character for community

The Church is connected to the large open space hall that also provides kitchen facilities, servery, toilets, office and storage and is accessed from a shared entry foyer. The existing hall has remained largely unchanged except to expand the toilet facilities and entry into new building annex connector on the north elevation, making way for new storage and a larger commercial kitchen.

Further fellowship considerations included: accessibility, acoustic performance for speaking, choral music, and live band, natural and artificial lighting, lower and upper level natural cross ventilation during peak summer, heating boost winter services, overhead projection facilities, security systems (fencing, lighting, alarms,) landscaping, and a children’s play area.

The metal profile roofing was selected for its capacity to fall in continuous curve, drawing emphasis to both height and a linear shadow line.

An underlying framework has been generated with a series of uniform bays supported by curved glulam portals, taking their cue from the rural and industrial sectors, though intentionally with a display of warmth in clear finishes to timber elements. This is contrasted with the decorative, glazed open ends and bays that allow natural daylight to penetrate into the space while providing a degree of shade and shelter.

With influence from their Pacific oceanic culture the Tuvalu community have selected shades of green to feature in the building's finishes including its joinery, cladding and roof. The linear shadow line is enhanced by using Metalcraft Kāhu® COLORSTEEL® Endura®, in Permanent Green. The Kāhu® profile is specifically designed to maximise impact with high angular ribs creating deep shadow lines for a bold visual statement. Kāhu® also provides greater weather performance with the double capillary overlap giving an extra capillary barrier to the standard capillary groove. The double capillary overlap requires only one rib lap increasing the sheet cover size and reducing installation time making it a cost effective roofing and cladding solution.

The project as a whole offers reconsideration to local grown, demountable, recyclable and renewal resources familiar to the Tuvalu community from their vernacular tradition. Economy, local availability and empathy with its neighbourhood were factored into choosing a metal roofing profile.

South Pacific Architecture

South Pacific Architecture is multi award winning Auckland based practice whose work has spanned adaptive and new residential, cultural, community, waterfronts, mixed use, commercial, education, master planning, heritage and landscape in UK and New Zealand. Work has featured in Italy, UK and NZ exhibitions and in the Phaidon Atlas of 21st Century World Architecture. The practice seeks thoughtful economy and crafted architectural responses that are an enduring contribution, and specific to their environment and locale.

South Pacific Architecture Ltd
Megan Rule
Telephone: 649 360 0416

Roofing Manufacturer:
Metalcraft Roofing
Telephone: 06 755 2113
Profile: Metalcraft Kāhu® 
Colour: COLORSTEEL® Endura® Permanent Green 

JPL , T Malcolm Builders