St Bernard’s College

Set within an existing historical context, the new SBC Chapel is embedded as the spiritual centre of the College; the site of the original Christian Brothers chapel and residence. 

The significance of its setting, adjacent the original educational building designed by Smith + Tracey in 1966, provided the opportunity to establish a building that symbolized and re-enforced the cultural pillars of the College – Community/ Stewardship/ Opportunity/ Excellence, as well as re-affirm the College’s identity and presence within its broader community. 

Utilizing the sites unique terrain, provided the opportunity to significantly increase the size and scale of the entrance forecourt, emphasizing the space as a ceremonial gathering place as well as enabling a symbolic reference to the college’s indigenous heritage to be established.

Wominjeka, Meaning Welcome.
The design of the forecourt drew reference from the indigenous – Bunjilaka, which symbolises the pathways that people take to gather for a ceremony, dance or song.

The sites pre-existing circulation constraints sought to utilize the Chapel and its pivotal location within the site as a mechanism to rationalise and draw together these various pathways, along with the educational facilities immediately effected. 

The chapel in its own right is now a destination, and provides an important visual presence not previously evident.

On arrival, the building facade addresses the visitor in a display of restraint intended to echo the values and principles of the Cistercian order; St Bernard a pivotal figure. A subtlety and humility has been embodied. 

It’s bluestone portico offers a stability and permanence in its appearance, intended to engage visitors and encourage entry to the chapel. It in turn offers a place of refuge, reflection and inspiration. 

Upon entering, the visitors eye is drawn to the soaring height and scale of the sanctuary. The Interior also reflects a humility and restraint in its materiality, assists in re-enforcing a radial configuration of the nave in order to draw greater focus to it.

The Chapel’s plan takes on an organic form, symbolizing a connection to nature itself, a point of difference from surrounding school buildings, and a way of referencing some of the immediate building forms recently introduced. The circle also emphasizes a strong presence within the design as the symbol of Life, Unity with God, and connection with one another.  

Sweeping forms externally generate a circulatory response. The values of simplicity and restraint form the basis of the buildings materiality. It is grounded in a bluestone aesthetic which then offers subtle variations throughout, in the form of reflective metal cladding strategically dispersed; and symbolic of a ‘precious metal’ or jewel within.

As a pillar of the church, St Bernard’s journey was one of providing stability and leadership. The building in turn symbolizes strength, unity and solidarity in reference to its educational (Edmund Rice) charter. The building re-enforces these principles and values clearly established at the heart of the SBC community.