Parramatta Mission and City of Parramatta Council has announced the winner of the design competition for its central site at Parramatta Square, which sits adjacent to the Leigh Memorial Church.

Dubbed The Gathering Place, the winning design was crafted by Durbach Block Jaggers (DJB). The site is a sacred meeting place of the Burramattagal people of the Darug nation pre-settlement. A Christian church has sat on the site for approximately 200 years.

In contrast to the surrounding high-rise glass towers, the innovative design will present a soft silhouette, reminiscent of a banksia pod, and will include a rooftop chapel and reflective garden. The winning design will be complemented by the rebuilding of the spire on Leigh Memorial Church.

“For Parramatta Mission, a Parish Mission of the Uniting Church, The Gathering Place reflects a commitment to serving the Parramatta community. It will house Parramatta Mission’s staff, be a centre for its social services and a place of meeting,” says Parramatta Mission Board and Church Council Member, Ian Gray.

“Through the life and witness of its congregations and through its delivery of social services, Parramatta Mission is seeking to redevelop this site to be a source of inspiration in the life of Sydney’s ‘central city’. The Gathering Place will be accessed by people from all walks of life.”

In a statement, DJB says the building has been designed to be inviting to the people of Parramatta.

“The Gathering Place building is a friendly and familiar form. Its gentle connection to the Leigh Memorial Church preserves both light and visibility. The circular geometry of the new welcomes all, complementing the inward nature of the existing church.” 

City of Parramatta Lord Mayor Steven Issa says he is delighted with the winning design, and congratulates Parramatta Mission and Durbach Block Jaggers on the building.

“The Gathering Place is a remarkable design and will be a wonderful addition to Parramatta’s Civic Link – a green, pedestrianised pathway that will connect the heart of the Parramatta CBD to the river,” he says.

“We welcome the lodgement of the Development Application for this building in the near future and look forward to seeing this important community facility becoming a reality.”

The design recognises the importance of this site to the traditional owners. The area around Parramatta Square is of great significance with evidence of Aboriginal settlement dating back more than 60,000 years. The city of Parramatta was created within a year of European settlement, with the site the scene of interaction between First Nations peoples and civic administrators.

The Leigh Memorial Church building is the third church to operate on this site since 1821. The campus has been a focus of Christian worship and the provision of community assistance for 200 years.

Gray is quick to make note that further detailed design work may be required in order for the building to pass through council. The DA will be based on DJB’s winning design.

“The Uniting Church is working in partnership with City of Parramatta Council in order to reach an agreed position that recognises the loss of development potential of the site. Construction of this iconic community building can then commence as soon as possible,” he says.

Image: Supplied