A West Auckland masterpiece

September 23, 2014

Several years ago, when I moved to West Auckland, an architect friend of mine suggested that I look at one of his favourite buildings within Auckland – the Catholic church on the western side of Te Atatu Peninsula. The church is visible from a considerable distance away, due to the impressive pre-cast concrete roof which is marked by a series of diamond-like fins.

From underneath, the fins are hollow (as seen in the photograph to the left, below), thereby continuing the sculptural effect of the roof as viewed from the inside of the church. The beautiful design of the roof continues down to the window and door porches/niches on the sides of the church (as shown below, right), which project forth from the surface of the roof, lending a sense of rhythm to the base of the roof.

The manner by which the side entry porches protrude from the roof and window niches is a little reminiscent of the compositional effect of traditional transepts – although there are two pairs of side porches on the Te Atatu church, as opposed to the fact that there is normally just one transept on each side of a church (for they form the sides of a cruciform arrangement)1. Water is shed into drains at the base of the roof, and small concrete bridges cross the drains on the rear side entry porches.

As in many parts of the world, progressive architecture has been associated with religious buildings in New Zealand – perhaps most notably in the case of John Scott’s celebrated work on Futuna Chapel in Wellington (as well as his design for Our Lady of Lourdes church in Havelock North). This church was designed by a firm, KRTA (Kingston, Reynolds, Thom and Allardice), that produced a range of significant works in the 1960s and 1970s, including the University of Auckland’s School of Architecture (and other buildings at the Uniiversity). A very good, freely available article was prepared by Andrew Barrie (for the broadsheet of the Auckland NZIA branch) about the work of KRTA, in which more information can be found about the firm that made this impressive building.


  1. That said, there has been a tradition of double transepts in some important historical churches.