St. John’s Church

A 2017 fire destroyed Rotorua’s St John’s Church. From the outset of our engagement the challenge was to design a ‘church for the future’ based on eight key principles.

DCA’s design response was framed by the opportunity to re-think what a church building could be and how it could enable more non-Christians to feel comfortable in approaching and using the building, allowing them to experience Christianity first-hand. The design response of a modest building is visually open, engaging, and warm – with flexibility to serve the church’s community ministries. The design eschews ‘barriers’ to access which are present in many traditional Church buildings. Some of the perceived barriers of traditional church design included large grand entries, overtly religious symbolism, dark spaces, closed foyers, hidden spaces and imposing facades. 

The original building was partially clad in a red clay brick cladding. In selecting a red brick for the new design, we created a link to the past while maintaining a domestic scale to honour the surrounding residential neighbours.

The project celebrates input from three cultural consultants and artists. June Grant provided mana whenua guidance and Māori cultural interpretation to aid in the development of the Tapatoru fritting pattern on the hub glazing and the Poutama pattern captured in the brick veneer of the exterior and in the acoustic panelling of the worship space.

Raymond Roimata designed the Rarotongan community-inspired ‘traditional tattoo’ as the glazing manifestation pattern. The pattern captures the history of the community in Rotorua and their journey to Aotearoa.

Alesio Vili designed an artwork that represented the Tokelauan community and their journey to Rotorua. The artwork was digitised and integrated into the interior timber panelling in The Hub.