The new St Barnabas Anglican Church and adjacent community hall on Broadway Street in Sydney stands in vast contrast to memories of the former building, both in architectural form and material composition.

Designed by Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp (FJMT), the new church complex is void of the Beaux-Arts detailing that defined the old building which was destroyed by fire in 2006. The old stone walls, jagged spires and stained glass windows are no more; instead a curving trapezoidal form stands clad in a prosaic material palette of silver steel and white fibre cement sheeting.

Situated on the corner of Parramatta Road and Mountain Street in Broadway, St Barnabas, or ‘Barneys’ as it is affectionately known, has been a Sydney institution for over 145 years, and FJMT note that their winning response to the architectural competition for the building's brief was to re-create the welcoming oasis that the church was well renowned for.

The new building features a 600-seat worship space, a multi-purpose hall, offices and meeting rooms, and an underground carpark which could offer up to 80 spaces.

“The architecture of the new church complex seeks to respond to the qualities and great opportunity of this special site in the city, and equally importantly, to the great sense of openness, welcoming and joy that characterises St Barnabas,” says FJMT.

“The new church offers a peaceful oasis of gathering and worship within the busy noise of the city.” 

Speaking at the NSW Architecture Awards presentation, FJMT Director Richard Francis-Jones explained that because of the church’s location on a busy Sydney street and its nature as a place for worship, his team’s design had to be responsive to both the public and private realms.

FJMT thus placed the most private space—the worship room—away from the main street at the back of the site, and the most public space—the landscaped terrace and pedestrian link—at its front. Balancing these two planes of public and worship activity is the double height milling space situated at the centre of the building, which Francis-Jones says is where most people congregate before and after mass.

The model shows the different planes of the building: the public space at the street front, the worship space at the back of the site and the intermediating space at the centre of the building. Administration areas, meeting rooms and additional multipurpose hall are located in the more thermally stable areas under the worship area and courtyard.

The milling space is the social-heart of the church and is the first area where FJMT’s play with natural lighting is seen within the building.  A double height glazed crucifix formed in plaster board is the star of the room and directs natural light down onto the bamboo floorboards and the counter-curved hoop pine seating area.

Inside the worship space, FJMT’s use of natural light takes a more diffuse turn and is provided by massive double glazed overhead skylights that are situated on the building’s northern fa├žade. The architects explain that the worship space, which is also shaped by curved plaster board ceilings, is designed to be “cloud-like”:

“The gentle rising curved volumes of the worship space characterise and focus the appearance of the church in the city.”

“The worship space, with its folding floor that wraps up around the congregation and opens up to soft cloud-like ceilings, is conceived like an open-hand under the sky; a warm, protective, generous and light-fill space.”

Slotted timber lining comes from Key-Lena and the acoustic ceiling tiles are “Ultima” from Armstrong. Diffuse light comes from lateral skylights and is directed down the curved plasterboard surfaces nto the space.

FJMT note that their use of natural light and reductive detailing allowed them to come in on budget and was also essential in meeting the parish’s desire for simplicity and the avoidance of overly ritualised worship. It was the architects’ intention to use only natural ventilation throughout the building, although the constraints of acoustic isolation both from traffic noise and between the church and neighbouring residences led FJMT to turn to a mechanical ventilation strategy that utilised the worship space’s high ceiling form to expel hot air.

The architects also called on a host of new technology to bring the building into the 21st century, and the worship space in particular features some of the latest acoustic and audio visual products. Similarly, all materials on the building’s exterior were informed by pragmatism and chosen for their enduring qualities, easy maintenance and resistance to graffiti.

Key-Lena Timber Veneer Wall Panels are curved to form the suspended podium in the double height milling space. Hints of the Barney’s concrete frame can be seen on the pilotis scattered around the building.


Cost: $18 million

Location: Sydney, NSW

Completion: June 2012



  • Johnathan Redman
  • Annie Hensley
  • Susanne Pollmann
  • Lina Francis-Jones
  • Janine Deshon

Richard Francis-Jones


  • Matthew Todd
  • Zuzana Semelak


John Gollings
Andrew Chung


Key-Lena Timber Veneer Wall Panels - Hoop Pine

Key-Lena Slotted Acoustic Timber Veneer Wall Panels

40mm depth x 30mm height solid hoop pine battens

BT Bamboo LSV152COM from Eco flooring

CERAMIC TILING (in bathrooms)
Skheme Vitrified Tile in Stack bond pattern
Laticrete Colour 24 Natural Grey Grout

CEMENTITIOUS TOPPINGS (in worship space and lower lobby):
Ardex Pandomo K1 with Colour Concentrate

Lafarge LASC1 Perforated Plasterboard

Armstrong “Ultima” Square lay-in edge

Key-Lena Slotted Acoustic Timber Veneer Ceilings and Bulkheads with KA100 black backing

La Farge CurveShield Plasterboard

Fabric wrapped perforated metal panels curved to match ceiling profile and to meet AV specifications. Concealed fixed from back to substructure and including all necessary framing and related support structure. Finished fabric layer: Keystone Acoustics Key Fabrica - Backing and fabric wrap to meet AV requirements.

Curved Fielders Kingklip 

A cladding system is installed above the main roof sheet. 8mm thick non-compressed fibre cement sheet with concealed fixings with Naw Kaw NECT-90 Mineral Paint finish

Rain screen type CL1 and CL2 concealed screw fixed to secondary framing