Smart Design Studio - Sydney Architects

The Gathering Place

‘The Gathering Place’ calls for a building that works at many scales within the city – as a regional centre, as a social and spiritual gateway to the city, as a landmark and beacon of hope within the revitalised heart of Parramatta, and as a living, breathing organism that is welcoming to all. It is designed to interweave the architecture of the building with an expression of Christian faith, embodying the values and vision of Parramatta Mission, while celebrating the unique heritage of the Leigh Memorial Church.

Our concept, one plus one equals one, is rooted in the pursuit of harmony over dichotomy – a synergistic effect to produce a combined entity greater than the sum of their separate parts. We see The Gathering Place not as an addition, but as a direct extension of the Leigh Memorial Church – a collective of two buildings reading as one. Our proposal aims to be an outward expression of the Uniting Church today – a distinctive and contemporary building in harmony with the Church. We see the building as a living organism, permeable on all sides, reaching out to the community, and welcoming all.


The forms reference the structural buttresses of the Church, and align with the top of the tower at the base of the spire. The northern elevation has one large, Gothic arched opening, echoing the existing openings on the Church, and allowing for the expression of life within. Consistent with our concept, the palette matches that of the historic church. Brick external walls and a sandstone plinth at ground level ties in with the existing foundation walls while fine steel-framed glazed double hung windows and doors speak to the stained glass of the lancet-shaped windows of the Church. This creates a synergistic relationship between the two buildings and a distinction from the surrounding commercial glass towers.

Analysis of future developments around the site established the limited benefit of photovoltaic panels on the roof –  100% carbon offset electricity supply is utilized instead. The is roof freed up for a bush tucker garden with native plants with edible roots, fruits, flowers, nuts, seeds and leaves, some  used in traditional food and medicine by the Darug and other Indigenous people. This urban skyfarm draws the community up through the building, creating a safe and nurturing place to engage with nature and each other, and grow organic food within a sustainable framework. It reduces the urban heat island effect, and is visible from the surrounding commercial towers.


The iconic contemporary form and interior is distinctive as a stand-alone building, and also an extension to the Church. The primary form comprises six tapered and concave vertical brick buttresses to the east and west, clad in brick to match the Church. These buttresses are connected by a contemporary vaulted brick structure, referencing Gothic church structures. The ceiling vaults are made up of plywood formwork, bricks laid on formwork, shotcrete concrete, insulation, and external slab for the roof. The vertical buttresses are standard load-bearing double brick cavity construction with cavity insulation. Concealed concrete columns within the vertical buttresses stabilize the brickwork and transfer the loads for each floor. The final reading is a bold and sculptural brick form: innovative in its historic reinterpretation.





Thank you! Your subscription has been confirmed. You'll hear from us soon.