From the architect:
St Christopher’s is the Cathedral for the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn. Opened in 1939, it is the largest church in the national capital and occupies a prominent site on the corner of Canberra Avenue and Furneaux St. in Manuka.
A Masterplan by Cox for the aging Cathedral grounds and outbuildings identified an opportunity to revitalise the precinct for the future. The Cathedral Precinct Redevelopment now encompasses several different uses, including the new Diocesan and Parish Administration Building, 44 new supportive housing apartments, public space, seating and sculpture.
The new public realm, landscape design by Tract, and built forms seek to merge the precinct into its urban location and heritage character. The new office and residential buildings are articulated with deference for the Cathedral building. Precast concrete walls, scaled to the height of the nave, organise both buildings. Higher elements, consistent with the intention of the National Avenue are located further away from the Cathedral building and are softened by a change of material.
The ensemble of buildings creates two main landscape spaces. The ‘Cloister’, a new urban public space directly behind the Cathedral and the ‘Courtyard’, a secure private, soft landscape space for residents. These two main spaces are then connected through a variety of spatial events (atrium, ramp, stairs, colonnade, etc.) that also negotiate the significant fall across the site. The ground plane is finished with a lively and engaging stone which unites the whole site and provides a new and welcome base to the Cathedral.
The redevelopment creates an important and sensitive edge to Canberra Avenue, a pedestrian scale to Franklin Street and retains the Cathedral and bell tower as the predominant elements in the composition. It has transformed the Cathedral precinct into a vibrant community of residents, office staff, parishioners and clergy on the edge of the Manuka shopping area.