Greek church Australia’s ‘new home’ moves forward after council approval

Speaking about the vision for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Sydney site reconstruction project, architect Angelo Candalepas shares a saying.

One that would benefit all of us – architects and beyond – to follow, sometimes we miss the point:

“You should never participate in anything you don’t believe in, otherwise it has no meaning for your life.”

Candalepas was approached by the Archdiocese to carry out the project in five stages, starting with the restoration of the historic Cathedral of the Annunciation of Our Lady.

The 173-year-old building was at the center of an 18-month delay between the submission of the development application to Sydney City Council and approval just days ago by its planning committee.

“It’s very rare that we don’t get approval,” says Candalepas Neos Cosmos when asked about the celebrations at Candalepas Associates headquarters about the long-awaited green light.

Angelo Candalepas established Candalepas Associates in 1999. The architectural firm’s current projects include the contemporary new building for the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) in Melbourne. Photo: Candalepas Associates/Facebook.

“An endorsement at our office is not like winning the lottery or anything like that. It’s more like ‘what does it come with? And how did they approve it?’. In this case, they were very respectful of our intentions and the intentions of the Archdiocese, and also understood that we too were respectful of the considerations that accompany the council’s duty to the public.

Live up to expectations

The request had been forwarded to the planning committee for exceeding building height limits.

According to the proposal, the 4,000 square meter site of the church should be given a facelift with the addition of new buildings. St Andrew Greek Orthodox Theological College will be rebuilt and new facilities housed in the buildings will include a museum, library, worship and reception areas.

“Height is always an issue, when you’re next to something of heritage significance. And it is arguably of national significance as one of the first church buildings to be constructed in Australia,” Candalepas said of the cathedral.

“So the question is, ‘what is the appropriate height to place a building next to?’ And you can never be presumptuous enough to match it. What we have done is a building that creates a kind of partner to the cathedral. And that’s the thing that I think people appreciate when they talk about size.

The Cathedral of the Annunciation of Our Lady of Redfern, one of the oldest churches in Australia built in 1848, was designed by the famous colonial architect Edmund Blackett. Image: Candalepas Associates/Supplied.

The full proposal is expected to be completed over two decades with a total budget of approximately $27 million, of which $2 million is earmarked for cathedral renovations.

An excerpt from a statement by Candalepas heard at the meeting that granted the approval, read:

“These buildings will bring the Greek Church an important new home.”

greenlit project – what next?

Announcing the new vision for the Cleveland Street Archdiocesan site in early 2021, Archbishop Makarios shared his hopes that the plans would inspire all Greek Australians to develop and maintain a deeper connection to the Church, ancestral culture, language and traditions.

“The newly created facilities will bring us closer together and most importantly allow our young people to have their own space within the Archdiocese and our Theological College.”

The addition of a library and museum with exhibits celebrating Greek-Australian heritage and immigration history have a role to play in making the Archdiocese’s reimagined premises an offering for the community at the broad sense and a point of interest for “all interested citizens and scholars, regardless of creed and origin.

The original “landscape and sensitive curtilage” will be taken into account by the renovation, the architect said, and set expectations for “a large, significant building that will increase the site’s capacity to receive important international guests as well as ‘to host important public events’. Image: Candalepas Associates/Supplied.

Candalepas told the planning committee that it was a project “from the heart”. So how does he see himself in this as a Greek Australian?

“The problem with Greek roots is that we embrace the whole world. What is important for me is not that I am Greek, but that in reality I have become someone because I am Greek. And what I mean by that is that my parents, as migrants, and I who were born in this country really have something to give back from our collective experiences.

What is important for a building, he adds, is not what it becomes as a consequence of the community it represents, but “what it offers as an invitation to the whole world to see something he might not otherwise see”.

“And it’s a building that opens its arms, so to speak, to the greater Sydney community and the greater Australian community, because it offers a lot of things that are considered by our community to be its treasures.”

The Archbishop, the Architect and Byzantium

Asked why he thinks Archbishop Makarios chose him for the project, Candalepas is candid:

“I don’t know. I think he asked people, and I was recommended. That’s all I can say. And then he interviewed me and we enjoyed a deeper understanding than that. which could be obtained quickly in most other circumstances. I think we could communicate. And that’s important, you know, with a client.

After all, Candalepas says he only participates in projects he believes in.

“It has to be something you believe in and can trust your client to execute. Because there’s no point in spending days and hours into the night drawing things if they don’t. there is no understanding on the other side.

Luckily for both of them, the communication formula seems to be working for Archbishop Makarios and Candalepas.

Their common vision of the future of the Redfern site?

Image: Candalepas Associates/Supplied.

“We are all the consequence of the memory of our generation and of the generations that preceded us. What we want to do, what the Archbishop wants to do, is create a place for those memories and provide a place where new memories can also be created in the future. And he told me that in a nice way. And I tried to give the artistic impression of that in the plans and hopefully it will be built soon.

It’s hard to resist the question, “Can a new home be inspired by an old one?” »

Would an iconic church like Hagia Sophia be on Candalepas’ mind while he was working on this design?

“I think what I have in mind is the wealth of Byzantium. Justinian who was a visionary had ordered San Vitale in Ravenna and Hagia Sophia at the same time. Both of these buildings have this feeling of ethereal space. They contain or describe it in two different ways. One in a very public way, which is in Constantinople and the other in a more intimate way in Ravenna. These two buildings influenced the world of architecture. And I have to say: Who am I to ignore them?

Bringing out the contemporary element of this heritage is a priority for the architect and the why is rather obvious:

“So they can become relevant to people living today.”

A difficult bet to win, one might say, but surely interesting to see how it plays out.

Especially on an archdiocesan site that aims to integrate both religious and lay people into its offerings.

Martha J. Finley