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Indooroopilly church built in early 1960s wins major architecture award

Award winner: Holy Family Church features complex, expressive geometry contained within a more traditional vertical structure and elongated basilica.

A SUBURBAN Brisbane Catholic Church described as “a freak of a building”, but also one of “unique beauty” has won the prestigious Enduring Architecture Award at the annual Queensland Architecture Awards.

Holy Family Church, Indooroopilly designed by Brisbane architectural firm, Douglas and Barnes, was built in the early 1960s and is a rare example of modernist architecture in Brisbane.

The church was entered in the awards on behalf of the local parish by Holy Family Primary School’s principal, John Robertson and Brisbane Catholic Education’s architect.

“It’s a freak of a building. Particularly for the time it was built, this was something pretty amazing for sleepy Brisbane (1961-63),” Fr Neville Yun, who spent four years and four months as Holy Family parish priest, and recently transferred to Mother of Mercy Parish, Hendra Northgate Hamilton, said.

“Modernist architecture was taking off in Europe but to see it in the southern hemisphere is unusual.

“Apparently the Church is the largest cast in situ concrete church in the Southern hemisphere. Remember Vatican II hadn’t finished so it’s an example of a pre-Vatican II church with a contemporary bent.

 “The Church is so large it can be seen from Mt Cootha.  It imposes itself on the hill and the unique, bold geometric lines makes it stand out.”

Architectural judges agreed with Fr Yun’s assessment.

“This is a dramatic piece of international modernism that retains its drama and nuance today,” Awards host, Viv O’Connell said on behalf of the jury during a livestream on July 9.

“The folded concrete roof and wall system of the main church and the separate, round baptistery building are each as impressive as they are distinct from the other.

“The church sits comfortably on the international stage and the jury applauds this building as a most worthy recipient.”

Inside, the church contains many striking elements.

“The stained glass built into concrete on the seven panels in the baptistery are visually stunning designed by Andrew Sibley,” Fr Yun said.

“The beautiful Stations of the Cross have been hand painted along the inside walls by deceased internationally recognised artist Ray Crooke. 

“Finally the floating pipe organ (no longer operational) at the back of the Church is amazing.”

Fr Yun said for all its unique beauty, the church needed ongoing maintenance and he appealed to Catholics from across the archdiocese to help. 

“The parish definitely needs financial assistance to continue to finish off the inside of the Church,” he said.

Queensland Architecture Awards jury chair Richard Coulson said: “This church is stunning in its ambition and its construction.

“The parish should be commended and encouraged on their maintenance and restoration program.”

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