St Gabriel's was one of the largest and most expensive of the new churches in the Hokianga to be built by 1900. Today, it remains as one of the earliest churches still on its original site and is definitely a Hokianga destination worth making, as it sits on a promontory in clear sight for miles before reaching it.
St Thomas’ Chapel itself originated on board the early twentieth century Melanesian Mission ship, Southern Cross V, which had operated throughout the Pacific region. Material from the decommissioned ship had subsequently been used to form a ’lady chapel’ in St Thomas Church, Auckland, before that building was demolished to make way for the new motorway. Temporary interim home for the historic remnants had been the crypt of St Matthews.
“This jewel-like box, with its highlights of lit onyx, honours and respects the existing architecture of St Matthew-in-the-City while asserting its own merits. It is delicately and thoughtfully sited in the historic church.”
– NZ ARCHITECTURE HERITAGE AWARD 2011
The design solution involved creating two simple “containers”, one to provide supportive enclosure for the heritage elements of the chapel and the other, the functional requirements of a modern catering kitchen. The “containers” had to be detailed for viewing from every angle, including overhead. Simplicity was the keynote and for the Chapel itself, the outer shell of simple oak ply with its “halo” of illuminated onyx provides a contrast against the heritage fabric within making clear the distinction between old and new.
In accordance with sound conservation practice principles the construction was achieved independently of the surrounding structure to allow easy removal if required at a later date, without damage to the historic elements of the Church.
Complex conservation demands shaped this heritage interior project and its success has been recognised in the following awards:
- 2011 NZIA Regional Award – Heritage Category
- 2012 NZIA National Award – Small Projects Category
- Inaugural INTERIORS Awards 2012 – Culture and Civic Category and Supreme Award Winner
- 2012 DINZ Best Awards – Public and Institutional Spaces - Gold Award