Exploring Auckland Architecture: Holy Trinity Cathedral

Design Lead Caitlin Bartlett discusses her favourite Auckland building

Auckland architects design lead Box™

Inspiring awe – that is the exalted goal that Caitlin Bartlett believes architects should pursue in their work and the Bishop Selwyn Chapel at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Parnell, Auckland is a building that is elevated into this realm.

Designed by Fearon Hay Architects in 2016, it’s far removed from what you’d expect from a regular church. In fact, it only has one solid side. The other three glazed elevations give it connection in the extreme, first to the historic St Mary’s-in-Holy Trinity, a wooden building in the Gothic style that sits alongside, but also to the elements of nature that define its location – resplendent 100-year-old old oak trees and beyond to the volcanic peak of Maungakiekie.

The gilded vaulted ceiling that arcs above the open-sided space seems like a spiritual force in its own right and the building, which was highly commended in the 2017 World Architecture Festival, was also voted one of New Zealand’s most transformative projects.

Auckland architecture at Parnell Holy Trinity Cathedral

Which is as it should be, says Caitlin who completed her Masters’ thesis on religious architecture. “My original inspiration for that was standing in one of Italy’s incredible churches with a group of other 20-somethings, and realising that nobody was talking, everyone was just looking wide-eyed,” she says. “Done well, the architecture of churches has the ability to deeply move and inspire people through beauty, scale and a sense of awe.”

Caitlin says the Fearon Hay interpretation of the Bishop Selwyn Chapel shows what can be done with a ‘modern’ design. “Juxtaposed so directly with the old cathedral, which is very inward looking, the new chapel is elegant and transparent, pared back and perfectly detailed.”  

Ironically, for a place where the holy trinity is the focus, Caitlin sees this as a functional example of human-centred design. “Because it is regularly used by a real community, the design has an impact on how that community interacts, develops and relates to the wider world.”

No other building has more direct and intimate impact on the human spirit however, than our own homes. That’s why Caitlin loves her job at Box™; getting to know a client and how they live is a privilege. “Small gestures in the layout of a home can influence the way occupants use the space. “That’s by far a designer’s most critical role – although specifying a really cool cladding or impressive detailing is fun and important, too.”

Putting people on the podium has served Caitlin well in her career. After all, the human touch is what turns your average home into a real sanctuary.