Born again

This substantial church renovation by Kister Architects involved retrofitting large sections of the interior while preserving the facade

Story by: Trends
The church from above aerial photography, bird's eye view, building, city, house, mixed use, neighbourhood, photography, real estate, residential area, roof, suburb, urban area, urban design, water, gray
The church from above

Architect: Kister Architects

About the project (text supplied): The Courtyard House encompasses both a new build and a conversion to the modest St Saviour’s Church in inner-city Collingwood. With its dense composite of residential conversions and developments within mixed-use industria, this context provided an architectural opportunity to rethink the family home while incorporating a former place of worship.

The owner-architect’s brief was to create a private sanctuary for a family of five within this urban hub. Implicit in this was the versatile utilisation of the church space.

As a primary response, the approach was to maximise the site footprint and northern orientation to create a seamless integration of old and new, interior and landscape.


The new design blends into the old architecture, building, estate, facade, house, property, real estate, swimming pool, window, gray, black
The new design blends into the old

High perimeter walls create an immediate sense of enclosure and proportionate scale to the church and nearby buildings. Where a curved plane of concrete in this facade peels away along the street front, a concealed entry opens into a vast outdoor courtyard, dominated by a 17-metre lap pool and concrete canopy above.

The church rises to the right, while at ground level it is sensitively connected to the new construct via a glass link. This is a pivotal point; more than a physical connection, it is a symbolic link between old and new, a subtle transition into the former place of worship.

Similarly connecting the old and new, the circular courtyard is the site’s focus. Raised to the ground plane of the built elements at upper-street level, its form is a nod to Ground’s Hill St house. In the courtyard’s creation, the standard house cube has been cut away and, where it thins to an horizontal plane, the resultant canopy creates a sharp linear contrast to the rounded forms.

Orientated to this courtyard, the home’s living areas on both levels are flooded with northern light, which generates a play of light and shade within and blurs the boundaries between inside and out. The upper level is set back and overlooks the courtyard and a roof garden.

One of the bathroom with a floating vanity architecture, bathroom, ceiling, daylighting, floor, home, house, interior design, real estate, room, sink, window, gray
One of the bathroom with a floating vanity

The clarity of detail and pared back finishes throughout create a clean Modernist aesthetic that elicits a sense of calm, in contrast to the bustle of the urban surrounds.

An extensive use of concrete in this new addition both complements and contrasts the existing church fabric, while original windows and bluestone footings have been reintegrated into the new building and landscape in considered ways.

The church itself has been stripped back to its core structural elements. By demolishing the apse and bricked archways, and inserting glazing instead, its formerly dark interior is flooded with light and celebrates the building’s historic beauty and volume.

Sustainable principles have been adopted throughout: skylights and internal windows allow natural light into internal spaces, reducing the need for artificial light; heat gain is controlled through canopies, double glazing and blinds; the courtyard allows continuous cross ventilation; and, the thermal mass of exposed ground slab, coupled with appropriate insulation, helps to regulate the internal environment in all seasons. The rooftop garden provides insulation, softening the exterior aspect and attracts wildlife in this urban location.

Mar 09, 2018





Similar stories

Mixed-use office, retail and hospitality hub takes design cues from railyard previously on site

New and adaptively reused old buildings comprise the new Platform mixed-use hub, which achieves harmony through a common palette of s... Read more

Comprehensive renovation creates a modern-functioning home with all the character of a grand historic villa

Reworked villa has a wealth of classic detail combined with a modern, flowing layout and everything else you need for ... Read more

Jaw-dropping Aquarium & Curved Staircase

Beautiful curved balustrading showcases all the drama unfolding in the floor to ceiling cylindrical aquarium Read more

Latest books

Home Trends 3403

The design of our homes – new or renovated – should be an individualistic response to our lifestyle, family set-up and budget. But there are also common requirements we should all aim for – a balance of public and private space... Read more

Home Trends 3402

Placing the kitchen at the heart of a home is not just about creating a convenient zone for easy food preparation and eating meals.Just as important is the way it's seen as an attractive place where family can spend time togeth... Read more

Home Trends 3401

If you're designing a bathroom for a new home or renovating your existing one, you'll quickly discover how involved the process can be.It's not only the challenge of how to fit the different functional zones into the often limi... Read more

Related profiles


The new leader of home design and fashion in New Zealand, representing some of the best flooring and plumbing manufacturers in the world, and with the most exclusive range of flooring and wall tiles the market can offer. Read more

RH Cabinetmakers

With years of experience, we specialise in custom cabinet design of quality kitchens, bathroom vanities, laundries, furniture, shelving, counters & bars. Read more